The South Asia Institute (SAI) at the University of Texas in Austin is launching the first undergraduate language study programme in Hindi and Urdu with over $700,000 in international funding.
The institute has been selected by the International Institute for Education (IIE) to create the first Flagship Programme in the two sister languages that are most widely spoken in India and Pakistan.
The goal of the Flagship Programme is to produce university graduates with the highest levels of fluency and professional proficiency in Hindi and Urdu, said James Brow, acting director of the institute.
The National Flagship Language initiative seeks to produce a new kind of instructional programme focused on the attainment of high-level competency in the target language and grounded in its professional use across a range of disciplines.
It has previously launched comprehensive programmes of instruction in Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Persian and Russian.
The director of the Hindi and Urdu Flagship Programme (HUF-Programme) will be Herman Van Olphen, with Rupert Snell (Hindi) and Akbar Hyder (Urdu) serving as associate directors.
All three are members of the Department of Asian Studies. The programme will employ innovative strategies and tap into new resources compatible with the ambition to effect a radical re-engineering of language education at the undergraduate level.
Established as a unit within the SAI, the HUF-Programme will continue to promote traditional approaches to literature and culture while setting these within a revised context of collaboration with the university's social science departments and professional schools, thereby engaging a broad range of contemporary issues.
Since the first year of the programme is set for 2007-2008, a recruitment initiative of academically excellent high-school students with some knowledge of Hindi or Urdu will begin immediately; language skills of entrants will be enhanced in a summer language camp.
The core curriculum is designed to deliver a carefully structured sequence of instruction based in a sophisticated understanding of South Asian culture and using innovative technologies.
Every year, except the third, which will be spent in India, the programme will offer two core courses each semester: a Flagship Language Course and a Flagship Area-Content Course.
The Flagship Language Course, which is at the heart of the Flagship curriculum, will guide students to fluency in Hindi through engagement with materials focused on contemporary issues, such as the environment, rural development, globalisation, religion, and gender.
The complementary Flagship Area-Content Courses will be regularly scheduled courses taught by members of various departments that contain an additional component in Hindi-Urdu that is specifically designed for students in the Flagship programme.
These two core offerings will sit alongside courses in the individual student's major discipline. During the junior year of study at an institution in India, students will continue taking courses that count towards their individual disciplinary degrees.
The programme also features a Hindi and Urdu Cyber Project that will employ current technologies and second language acquisition principles in the development of field materials gathered in South Asia by the directors and instructors of the programme.