The Language Flagship

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Culture Initiative

Flagship Culture Initiative

Supporting Intercultural Growth in The Language Flagship

The Flagship Culture Initiative (FCI) is a collaborative, inter-institutional, international and cross-language initiative to provide U.S. Language Flagship students of Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and Russian with opportunities for articulated intercultural learning in both domestic and overseas contexts. 

The 3-year project was funded by a grant to the University of Maryland by The Language Flagship, a national initiative to change the way Americans learn languages through a groundbreaking approach to language education for students from kindergarten through college.

Project Outcomes

The major outcomes of this project are:

  • The Culture App, a series of online modules based on intercultural scenarios for U.S. undergraduate students of Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese or Russian language and culture. The Culture App modules were designed for use in domestic Language Flagship programs prior to Flagship students’ capstone year overseas. They can be used with any students of Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese or Russian prior to a sojourn abroad or with other students in domestic courses focused on intercultural learning.
    The bilingual structure of the Culture App, where each content area offers scenarios both in English and in the target language, may benefit a wide range of users, from freshmen to fluent speakers of the target language to professionals interested in developing or expanding their intercultural skills and knowledge of Arabic-speaking, Brazilian, and Russian-speaking cultures.
  • Intercultural Roundtables for Overseas Programs in Arabic and Russian, scenario-based lesson plans and support materials for facilitated on-site intercultural learning through case studies and role-plays. Twenty Cultural Roundtable units were produced and test-taught in the context of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Arabic and Russian Flagship Capstone programs. Each roundtable session is designed for student-centered structured discussion, perspective-taking and critical reflection intended to assist and provide practice for students in recognizing and managing cross-cultural differences when they emerge, while minimizing the levels of uncertainty and anxiety experienced by virtually all capstone students at this level. Upon completion of 10-12 cultural roundtables over the course of two overseas semesters, as recommended by the project, students (L2 learners at or near the ACTFL Advanced-High or Superior Levels of proficiency in speaking, listening and reading) demonstrate improved skills for anticipating, recognizing and adjusting their linguistic, cognitive and socio-emotional responses to manifestations of cultural differences they encounter in the host country.
  • Bilingual intercultural exchanges between undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The exchanges were hosted on Class2Class and based on the CULTURA model for collaborative intercultural learning.

Scenario-based approach

The choice of a scenario-based approach to intercultural learning for this initiative was inspired in part by the 2000 bookTurning Bricks into Jade: Critical Incidents for Mutual Understanding Among Chinese and Americans, by Mary Margaret Wang, Richard W. Brislin, Wei-jong Wang, David Williams, and Julie Haiyan Chao.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT

The development of the Culture App modules and Cultural Roundtables for Overseas Programs was informed by a groundbreaking 360-Degree Needs Assessment conducted by American Councils for International Education (Davidson, D. E. and Garas, N, forthcoming) to assist developers in addressing the range of observed cultural preparation needs exhibited or experienced by U.S. Language Flagship students who have attained at ACTFL Advanced-Superior level of proficiency in the target language. The mixed-methods study included surveys and interviews with key stakeholders in Language Flagship Overseas Programs: host university faculty, homestay families, internship supervisors, peer tutors, and program staff, as well as program alumni and domestic program faculty and staff.

Focus groups were conducted in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Meknes, Morocco, and Beijing, and Nanjing China. The FCI Assessment team administered 18 online surveys in Arabic, Chinese and Russian to host families, teachers, internships organizations, and language partners in all these four locations. The purpose of the focus groups and surveys was to elicit stakeholder perceptions of capstone Flagship participants with whom they have had contact. Stakeholders were asked to reflect on the various Flagship capstone participants whom they have taught, advised, tutored, hosted, supervised or worked with professionally in recent years, upon their arrival in country, during their in-country stay and at the end of the program.

The 360-Assessment was based on three basic evidentiary domains of intercultural competence, as agreed upon by the FCI working group:

Attitudes: respect, openness, curiosity, willingness to move beyond one’s comfort zone, readiness to demonstrate that others are valued, less ethnocentric

Knowledge: language and culture-specific, including understanding other worldviews; socio-linguistic awareness; cultural self-awareness

Skills: 1) central for the acquisition of knowledge to observe and understand; 2) to discover and interact (savoir apprendre/faire); 3) to engage, negotiate, mediate, assess critically, which includes a critical perspective on one’s own culture. 

The 360-Assessment identified areas of potential intervention for preparing participants prior to their capstone year and during their overseas immersion program. Subsequent material development was informed by findings of this assessment.

Core Project Team

Valerie Anishchenkova, University of Maryland Arabic Flagship Program

Flagship Culture Initiative Director, Principal Investigator and Arabic Project Lead 

Joseph Bass, University of Maryland

Flagship Culture Initiative Coordinator and Brazilian Portuguese Project Lead

Adonis de Carvalho Borges, University of Maryland

Brazilian Portuguese Project Affiliate

William J. Comer, Portland State University Russian Flagship Program

Russian Project Affiliate

Dan E. Davidson, American Councils for International Education

Assessment Lead and Overseas Coordinator

Karen Evans-Romaine, University of Wisconsin-Madison Russian Flagship Program

Flagship Culture Initiative Co-Associate Director and Russian Project Lead

Nadra Garas, American Councils for International Education

Senior Assessment Expert

Ahmad Hanafy, University of Maryland Arabic Flagship Program

Arabic Project Affiliate

Maria D. Lekic, American Councils for International Education

Intercultural Roundtables for Overseas Programs Lead

Robert Moser, University of Georgia Portuguese Flagship Program

Brazilian Portuguese Project Consultant

Dianna Murphy, University of Wisconsin-Madison Russian Flagship Program

Flagship Culture Initiative Co-Associate Director

Julio C. Rodriguez, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center

Instructional Technology Lead

Stephen L. Tschudi, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Language Flagship Technology Center

Instructional Design Lead

Aitor Arronte, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Language Flagship Technology Center

Software Development Lead

The Flagship Culture Initiative was supported by a 3-year grant (2017-2020) to the University of Maryland from the Institute of International Education (IIE), acting as the administrative agent of the National Security Education Program (NSEP), Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) for The Language Flagship.

The Language Flagship is a national initiative to change the way Americans learn languages through a groundbreaking approach to language education through a network of programs at institutions of higher education across the United States. The Language Flagship graduates students who will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of proficiency in one of ten languages critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.

This website has been developed and is maintained by The Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center. The content of this website and of the Culture App do not necessarily reflect the position of policy of the U.S. government. No official government endorsement should be inferred.

 

The Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center