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From 2007-2021 NFLC administered the STARTALK program. STARTALK offers tuition-free language learning courses for students and professional development opportunities for teachers in critical need languages and free resources for teachers of all languages.

From 2007-2021 NFLC administered the STARTALK Program. STARTALK offers tuition-free language learning courses for students and professional development opportunities for teachers in critical need languages and free resources for teachers of all languages. All courses and resources are developed around the six STARTALK principles that embody characteristics of highly effective language teaching and learning and ensure that learners are engaged in meaningful, real-world learning experiences that prepare them to use the target language beyond the classroom.

Engaged KidsSTARTALK is a grant program that was administered and guided by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland from its inception in 2007 through December 2021. It is implemented by local educational organizations (schools, college and universities, nonprofit organizations, and local heritage schools). It is mainly a summer program focusing on

  • language learning experiences that would generate in students an interest in continuing to study their STARTALK languages after the summer,
  • professional development opportunities for teachers to provide language instruction that would engage and interest students, and
  • the development of much-needed resources to support students and students in these programs.

From 2007 to 2021, the NFLC led the continued development and updating of guidelines for effective teaching and learning known as the STARTALK Principles that guide classroom instruction and teacher training. Through 2021, the Teacher Effectiveness for Language Learning (TELL) Framework was also used to guide the professional development and transformation of teachers. The NFLC developed curriculum templates based on principles of backward design for all STARTALK programs to plan effective instruction to meet and document stated course objectives. The STARTALK website hosted by the NFLC featured a multitude of resources surrounding the principles and the TELL framework, and these resources were available to the public.

Through 2021, since its inception in 2007, the NFLC guided STARTALK programs in continuous improvement employing three specific quality assurance checks: the application review and award process, the curriculum approval stage, and a program site visit.

The STARTALK program has had a profound impact on the world language community, especially for less commonly taught languages. Longitudinal surveys indicate that over 80% of students continued to learn their STARTALK language, and a number are working in professions that require use of the language. In similar surveys, the vast majority of teachers reported transformation as a result of implementing the STARTALK principles into their academic year classrooms.

The STARTALK program was further supported by a US Department of Education award of a Language Resource Center to the NFLC, Professional Educators Advancing Research in Language Learning (PEARLL). The LRC continues to leverage the many lessons learned from STARTALK programs and resources developed to support teachers. In return, STARTALK benefitted from an LRC at the NFLC with more focus on teacher development and activities to support world language teachers.