Language instruction & fellowships at the International Institute
Loteria card used to teach Nahuatl vocabulary. Right: Amharic alphabet (Fidel). Abel Gebremariam via Wikimedia Commons, 2016. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Language instruction & fellowships at the International Institute

The institute directly offers language classes in Amharic, Nahuatl and Yoruba. In addition, a number of its research centers and programs financially support language instruction at UCLA and offer fellowships for the advanced study of specific languages.

UCLA International Institute, October 13, 2020 — Many Bruins are aware of the International Institute’s popular academic programs, but few know that the institute directly offers classes in languages spoken in Africa, Latin America and East and Southeast Asia.

In addition, several of the institute’s 27 research centers and programs both provide financial support for language instruction at UCLA and offer fellowships for the advanced study of specific languages.

African language classes. Last year, historian-anthropologist Andrew Apter, director of the African Studies Center, and linguist Harold Torrence, chair of the African Studies M.A. Program, led an effort to secure campus funding for three African languages classes: Amharic, Swahili and Yoruba.

Amharic and Yoruba are currently co-offered by the International Institute and the department of African American Studies each quarter, with the difficulty level progressing over the course of the year, while Swahili is housed in the department of linguistics. All courses are accessible to students across the UC system through cross-campus enrollment. 

Apter, who has spent a career conducting research in West Africa, teaches the Yoruba class along with new instructor Moses Adegbola. Two new instructors, Abraham K. Adhanom and Sephrine Achesah, are currently teaching the Amharic and Swahili classes, respectively.

In a related vein, Apter and Torrence are jointly organizing the conference, “African Philosophies on Language” in February 2021.

Nahuatl classes. The Latin American Institute (LAI) funds beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in Nahuatl, one of the roughly 63 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico.* LAI partners with Stanford and the University of Utah to develop curricula for these distance-learning courses, which are taught by native-language speakers based in Monterey, Mexico. To complement these classes, LAI organizes an annual Nahuatl conference.

Russian Flagship Program.
The Center for World Languages co-administers the most comprehensive foreign-language program offered in conjunction with the International Institute: the Russian Flagship Program at UCLA. The five-year intensive language and cultural studies program requires students to complete both a summer and academic year study abroad program in the Russian language.The academic year abroad includes an internship related to the student’s major. Students graduate with certified proficiency in the language, making them and competitive in the job market and as graduate school applicants.

Flagship classes focus on professional language use: instruction is tied to students’ majors, which range from STEM to the social sciences to the humanities (most students double major in Russian). The program is supported by a federal grant from the education division of the U.S. Defense Department and is jointly administered by the Center for World Languages and the department of Slavic, East European & Eurasian languages and cultures.

Federal funding for the Russian Flagship program was recently renewed for an additional two years (through June 2022), including annual program support of $325,000, plus an additional $125,000 to support student study abroad.

Southeast Asian language classes and fellowships. The Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) and its consortium partner at UC Berkeley co-fund distance-learning courses in intermediate Khmer and Burmese for UCLA (and UC Irvine) students. Taught by instructors at UC Berkeley, the classes are funded in part by a Title VI grant from the Department of Education.

CSEAS also offers UCLA students competitive Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships to students for the intermediate and advanced study of Burmese, Indonesian, Filipino/Tagalog, Khmer, Thai and Vietnamese. In addition, the center also offers privately funded travel grants and scholarships for students to conduct research and study abroad in Indonesia during the summer.  

East Asian language classes and fellowships. The Asia Pacific Center, through its Taiwan Studies program, financially supports a class that teaches the Taiwanese (Taiyu) dialect through popular culture. The class is offered by the department of Asian languages and cultures (ALC) at UCLA.

As part of the same program, the center is currently planning to fund Mandarin language classes using traditional characters (also through ALC), as well as language fellowships. In spring 2020, the Asia Pacific Center also funded two courses in Kazakh offered by the department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian languages and cultures, in support of its Program on Central Asia.

In addition, the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies offers Sasakawa Japanese Language Fellowships to graduate students to attend intensive Japanese language programs in Japan or the United States.

Middle Eastern language fellowships. The Center for Near Eastern Studies offers an undergraduate fellowship for summer intensive study of Arabic, as well as FLAS fellowships to graduate and undergraduate students for intermediate and advanced study of Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish. Students can apply these fellowships toward language classes offered by the department of Near Eastern languages and cultures at UCLA, or toward classes offered by other U.S or international institutions of higher learning.

Heritage languages. Among its many pedagogical and research activities, the National Heritage Languages Resource Center (NHLRC) offers online and in-person pedagogical training (as well as syllabi and teaching materials) to heritage language teachers of diverse languages, including Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. 

*Classes in two additional indigenous languages spoken in Mexico and Central America, Miztec and Zapotec, are offered by the department of Spanish and Portuguese, which cross-lists Nahuatl courses offered by the International Institute.