Grant Strengthens BU Language Learning

June 19, 2009

Boston University has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to strengthen the abilities of future military officers in five critical world languages.
The grant, part of the 2009 Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Project Global Officer or “Project GO,” runs for two years and is renewable for a third year, for a total amount of $750,000.
The grant targets five of BU’s existing language programs: Arabic, Chinese, Turkish, and the West African languages Wolof and Hausa (the last two are spoken in Senegal and the Niger-Nigeria region respectively). Funds will go to develop improved materials for instruction and to create new programs encouraging and supporting ROTC cadets and midshipmen to begin and continue the study of these languages.

BU’s grant proposal set forth two aims. First, half of BU’s ROTC students should in future graduate having had at least some formal exposure to a critical language. Second, a small number of those students should achieve an exceptionally strong competence in these languages through completion of two intensive summer programs, one at BU and one abroad, as well as three or four full years of term-time language study.

BU already has programs or exchanges abroad for advanced study of each of the five targeted languages. Twelve critical languages and 23 languages overall are regularly taught on the Charles River Campus. Few universities in the U.S. offer regular instruction in so many languages and support this instruction, as BU does, with regular continuing faculty members. The award recognizes BU’s special excellence in language and culture education and its robust plan to give future officers the full benefit of this resource.

The project is a collaborative effort between the CAS Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature (MLCL), working closely with the African Studies Center, and the BU Division of Military Education. Key additional support will come from the Summer Term office and the International Programs Office. Project GO-BU will be coordinated by Dr. Giselle Khoury, senior lecturer in Arabic and head of the Arabic Language Program, in collaboration with Professor Scott Williams, Army ROTC commander and professor of military science. The grant proposal was written by Professor William Waters, chair of the MLCL Department, who serves as the principal investigator for the project.
Raising students’ linguistic and intercultural competence are top priorities for the University as BU seeks to expand the number of students involved in study abroad programs and to strengthen leadership skills in a global context. Project GO-BU will provide scholarships for cadets to study abroad in Morocco, China, Turkey, Senegal and Niger, participate in on-campus summer language immersion programs, interact with current military officers serving around the globe, and participate in other programs to enhance their cross-cultural competence. A new program, Globally Speaking, will offer noncredit, fun “teaser” classes in all five of the emphasized languages to demystify these languages, reduce anxieties about unfamiliar sounds and scripts, and entice students to enroll in regular language courses in a later semester. Globally Speaking courses will be opened to the broader student community as well.
Currently more than 250 young men and women are members of BU’s ROTC. With Air Force, Army, and Naval (Navy and Marine Corps) ROTC instruction available, BU stands as one of the few schools to offer military commissions in all branches of the service and is a leader nationally in commissioning officers into the armed forces.

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