Hindi-Urdu instructor receives grant for South Asian languages curriculum

| News Editor

Not everyone can afford to take language courses at a prestigious university or has the time to be enrolled in such courses. So some turn to online language programs to learn something new.

M.J. Warsi, lecturer in South Asian languages, was awarded a $25,000 grant from the South Asian Language Resource Center to develop an online curriculum for learning Hindi-Urdu.

The grant concentrates on South Asian languages at universities in the United States as part of the U.S. Education Department’s International Education and Graduate Programs.

This curriculum will be accessible by anyone with access to the Internet and will facilitate learning of the Hindi-Urdu language at the intermediate level.

“This is a very new concept we are working on, and we hope that it’s going to be very effective from the language point of view,” Warsi said.

The program should be ready in one year. The South Asian librarian Samuel Wright and other graduate students and technical assistants will assist Warsi.

According to Warsi, there is not another program like this already in existence.

“This certainly is going to be a challenging work, but we are very excited. The outcome will be very much widely used, because we haven’t located any program as effective as we are going to produce,” Warsi said.

Hindi-Urdu student Laura Olivier, a sophomore, hasn’t been able to find a suitable online program. She said the programs she has tried to use have videos that don’t work, are not at the appropriate level for her or are not complete with many vocabulary words.

“I would love to use a program that I would be assured would be at the right level,” she said.

Warsi also believes that this project is important because of the size of the grant.

“In humanities, particularly languages, we consider this a really big grant to work on something,” Warsi said.

Further, Warsi said Hindi-Urdu is considered the third most-spoken language in the world and is very important to learn.

“As part of the ongoing relationship—both technological and strategic—that India has with us and we have with India, there’s so much going on between those two countries, so there is a great demand of learning the Hindi language,” Warsi said.

Students who study Hindi-Urdu agree about its worth.

“It is an important language because it is one of the most spoken languages in the world, and with the rising importance of India in the world economy we must learn the language,” freshman Rohan Gopinath said.

As this language is so important, the program is also expanding at Wash. U. specifically.

The Hindi-Urdu language classes are a part of the South Asian languages and culture minor. There is not yet a major in this department.

According to Warsi, there is a growing number of students enrolled in Hindi-Urdu language classes.

In the fall of 2006, 16 students were in the introductory Hindi course, whereas in the fall of 2009, there were 21 students in the same level.

In the intermediate level courses of Hindi-Urdu, the class size went from four to seven students in the same time period.

Additionally, an advanced Hindi class was added last year.

Wash. U. also has an exchange program with two different universities in India through the McDonnell International Scholars program.

“This [program] is comparable to other schools for South Asian language courses but we do not have a center for South Asian studies like the other bigger schools,” Warsi said. “We are in the process of moving towards that direction.”

  • PPS. Here is my “Open letter of application, to be forwarded upward via the grass roots, and downward via the executive, to whom it may concern..”


    They have my CV and they know who I am and where I live, and what I am ready and willing to do for our programs, with adequate though not excessive pay and my health care benefits restored.

  • “This [program] is comparable to other schools for South Asian language courses but we do not have a center for South Asian studies like the other bigger schools,” Warsi said. “We are in the process of moving towards that direction.”

    A Center for South Asian Studies without Sanskrit or other classical languages and civilizations? Let’s hope not.

    I commend Professor Warsi for his hard work, and his decision to stay here and build the program. May he be well rewarded by this well-endowed and prestigious institution, famous for chewing up and spitting out its loyal workers.

    Please support Lecturer’s Policy reform, here and everywhere. We need a real career path, culminating in tenure or its equivalent, for teaching and mentorship, at all levels of instruction.

  • PS. For the record, I taught my Religious Studies/History/Anthropology course, “Religious Minorities of South Asia” for the first time in Spring ’00, and one of my students, Nandini Chaturvedula, changed her major to History halfway through the course and expanded her class paper into an award-winning Honors Thesis in History. Even so, the course would have been eliminated had I not taught it without pay the second time. We managed to keep the Anthro and History cross-listing only by moving the course to University College, where I taught it twice more, once with an omnibus syllabus, and once on the specialized topic, “South Asian Christianity and Judaism.” My University College course, “Hindu Medicine and Indian Food,” taught first in the Summer School, 01, with an Anthro cross-listing, had the Anthro cross-listing pulled when we moved it to University College, Autumn 02, 03, 04, 05, 06.

    C. S. Lewis (among others) is reputed to have said, “Why are University politics so vicious?” Answer” “Because so little is at stake.” Quite a lot is at stake, really. The hearts and minds of the next generations.

  • Nice story! There is still no real career path for Lecturers here, and your story fails to mention that. Having a one man Hindi-Urdu Department is no more “sustainable” than having a “one man Religious Studies Department” (that would be me). I too was worked half to death, my medical job lock situation shamelessly exploited, and then I was told by the Program Chair and General Administrator “You don’t have to be a one man Religious Studies Department any more,” as I was given the news of the purported elimination of my Lectureship position, and my health care benefits, in the name of George W. Bush and the War on Terror. Different stories were told to different people, and are still being told. My continued presence here is an embarrassment for these storytellers.

    Oh, by the way, I was a “one man South Asian Studies program” during a one year interval between Hindi-Urdu Lecturers, before Satradru Sen was hired to teach South Asian History (he was unfortunately denied tenure, despite a prodigious teaching and publication record). I carried that program too, working without pay for the greater good, as I almost always do. My students will attest to that, and they continue to do so. Thank you!

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome Bauer

    –Sometime President, UPenn South Asia Graduate Association (I was drafted)
    –Sometime President, UPenn Graduate Student Associations Council (by acclamation)
    –Sometime Chair, UPenn GSAC Multiculturalism Committee (I was left holding the ball, so we ran with it, and made it our flagship committee, the one that worked….)
    –Lecturer, for pay and pro bono just to keep the courses on the books when the University Administration did not care or were hostile, Washington University, 1999-2007, and to the present, still working pro bono and without a contract….
    –Community Lecturer, Cervantes Free University (why don’t you join us on the street and in the coffee shops?)


    per veritatem vis