Two Awarded Critical Language Scholarship

May 20, 2015

Amanda Nagy

Photo credit: Mark Doliner via Flickr

The United States Department of State has selected two students for its Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) this summer.

Second-year Sarah Chatta and first-year Olivia Evans are among the 550 undergraduate and graduate students in the nation who received a scholarship for intensive language instruction. Participants spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes this summer in one of 13 countries to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu.

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to dramatically expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. It provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the program and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Chatta, a creative writing major from Seattle, will be immersed in Punjabi at the American Institute of Indian Studies' site in Chandigarh, Punjab. She has a personal interest in learning the language: Her father and his family are Punjabi, and they speak both Hindi and Punjabi. Although she has spent significant time in India, including nine months in Delhi before coming to Oberlin, Chatta has not yet learned to speak Hindi or Punjabi.

Last summer, she received a Shansi In-Asia Study Grant to visit New Delhi and Shimla, the capital city of India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh, two places where she has extended family members. She explored the significance of Shimla in India’s history and the Indian-Pakistani Partition by interviewing and listening to personal accounts. She is presently working on an independent project to compile her research and interviews into oral history narratives.

Chatta also studies Russian at Oberlin, and she intends to declare it as a second major. She says she is grateful for the mentoring she has received from Professor of Russian Tom Newlin, who recommended the CLS Program and supported her oral history project from the beginning, as well as Azita Osanloo, visiting assistant professor of creative writing.

Evans will receive intensive Chinese instruction at Soochow University in Suzhou, China. A member of the Asian American Alliance at Oberlin, she just completed fourth-year Chinese instruction with Associate Professor Qiusha Ma and will continue with fifth-year Chinese in fall 2015. “As a mixed-race Asian American, I study Chinese language and culture to reclaim a part of my identity,” Evans says.

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