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.”

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