Academics & Research

UH program works to make better Chinese teachers

Chinese as a Second Language teachers came from across the country to UH for the STARTALK Texas Teacher program.

STARTALK was launched as a part of the National Security Language Initiative by former President George W. Bush in 2006. The program awards grants to universities and organizations as part of a nationwide effort to improve foreign language capabilities in an increasingly global world.



“The objective is to support the teaching of foreign languages that are important for national security,” said Manuel Gutiérrez, professor of Spanish Linguistics and director of the STARTALK program at UH.

“The objective (of this program is to teach the languages) that are not taught widely, Chinese fits that description. It is (important) to be a part of this program.”

Schools across the country apply every year for the exclusive grant, and different schools teach different languages, such as Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Swahili, or Turkish. UH is holding the program for the second year after receiving the nearly $100,000 grant, and exclusively offers Chinese.

“There is a huge population of Chinese (people in Houston) and these families would like their children to learn this language. Our enrollment (in the program) has been increasing steadily. The demand is to have better teachers and enhance their quality, commitment and the qualifications,” said Xiahong (Sharon) Wen, director of the Chinese Studies Program at UH and lead instructor of the STARTALK program.

“Five years ago the goal would’ve been 20 teachers. After today, we want to say we want to develop in depth, to get master teachers instead of novice teachers.”

UH’s program is available to Chinese as a Second Language Kindergarten through 12th grade, heritage school and community college teachers across the country. Teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and six months experience teaching must write an essay on why they deserve to be chosen for the program. The program focuses on how to teach the language effectively, as well as a greater understanding of writing and tones.

“We have foreign instructors, three were invited…they are top scholars in the nation. The four of us each teach different mini-courses in ten days. Students get the best of the whole program this way,” Wen said.

“We teach from a series of second language acquisition, research-based instruction, and methodology in teaching Chinese, and address linguistic specifics.”

After completion of the program, teachers must implement what they learned in their classroom during the fall semester. They will return to UH November 2 to present what they have done and prove that the program was effective.

The program serves as a Chinese course, Issues of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, and counts towards a certification for teaching a second language in Texas.

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