Chinese language, culture summer program offered at SUNY Oswego in Syracuse


April 26, 2017

SUNY Oswego in Syracuse this summer will host STARTALK, a free Chinese language and culture academy, thanks to a grant two SUNY Oswego faculty members obtained through a U.S. National Security Agency language initiative to train more people who speak "critically needed foreign languages."

Dr. Ching Hung Hsiao of the college's modern languages and literatures department, who also teaches in the Chinese language program of Jamesville-DeWitt School District, and her colleague, Dr. Ming-te Pan of SUNY Oswego's history department, secured the grant of up to $90,000 from the National Foreign Language Center at University of Maryland, which administers STARTALK.

The federally funded program seeks 60 students in grades 3 to 12 for a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekday program July 10 to 28 at SUNY Oswego's branch campus at the Metro Center in the Atrium building on Clinton Square. There is no program fee. If applications exceed 60 by May 15, there will be a selection process; if not, Pan said, applications would remain open until about May 22.

"I think this is a good way to expose students to language and culture," Pan said. "To some extent, I think students are a bit timid to make the step (to study Chinese), to get into an unknown world. I think once they get into the program, they'll get excited."

The summer program emphasizes real-world communication, offering students creative, engaging and immersive experiences that exemplify the best practices in Chinese language and cultural education, organizers said. There is an associated schedule of five weekend cultural workshops during the 2017-18 school year offering Chinese festival-related activities.

"We welcome anyone in grades 3 to 12 in the Syracuse metropolitan area to apply," Pan said.

Hsiao and Pan anticipate applications from children of Chinese immigrants, Chinese children of American-born parents, other children of Chinese heritage, and children of any background eager to learn about the language and culture of China. Class sizes will be small, accommodating multiple levels of Chinese proficiency and different learning styles.

Teachers recruited

STARTALK also seeks to strengthen the skills of current and prospective language teachers. Candidates for teaching and assistant positions need to speak Chinese with native or near-native proficiency, Pan said. Before the start of the summer program, teachers and assistants will participate in a pre-program training workshop for two days, attend state-required child protection training and undergo a background check.

New to the Syracuse area, STARTALK launched in 2006 and has grown to dozens of locations encompassing teaching in one or more of these languages: Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu.

Pan asked parents to encourage their children to "take a bold step" that could lead to a lifetime's interest, skills and perhaps future employment. He called attention to the program slogan: "Learning Chinese will open doors to opportunities."

For more information and to apply for STARTALK, visit For prospective teachers and assistants for the program and those who have more questions, contact

To learn about modern languages and literatures programs at SUNY Oswego, visit

Sharing language -- SUNY Oswego faculty members Ching Hung Hsiao and Ming-te Pan invite applications for children and adolescents in grades 3 to 12 to attend a free summer program in Chinese language and culture called STARTALK at SUNY Oswego in Syracuse at the Metro Center. The federally funded program will run weekdays July 10-28.