Franklin STARTALK Program Celebrates Language And Culture

Students recite a poem during the Franklin STARTALK program July 8. Photo: Arnav Tolat.

By Arnav Tolat.

Language and culture were vibrant at the concluding event of the Hindi Sangam Foundation’s STARTALK program July 8 at Franklin High School.

The event was attended by students’ families, community members, and distinguished guests including former state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, and Dr. YLP, an Indian writer and politician. Students presented dances, films, poems, and plays they had worked on throughout the Franklin STARTALK program.

The Franklin STARTALK program is a three-week immersion into the Hindi language held at Franklin High School from June 19th through July 8th. In this program, 40 Franklin students in 6th to 8th grades developed their understanding of the Hindi language. Ashok Ojha is the program’s director and the head teacher is Nilakshi Phukan, a foreign language professor at North Carolina State University.

Students sing the national anthems of the United States and India. Photo: Arnav Tolat.

Ojha described the program’s unique aspects.

“In the STARTALK program held at Franklin, students learn the language through reading, listening to, and acting out various stories,” he said. “The story is the medium students use to learn not only the language, but also critical thinking and important life lessons. Stories teach students sentence structures and vocabulary better than a textbook.”

After the students presented their works, they were recognized for their completion of the program. Chivukula, now a commissioner on the state Board of Public Utilities,  also presented a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, signed by Rep. Frank Pallone (D6), to the Hindi Sangam Foundation for conducting the Franklin STARTALK program.

STARTALK is a federally funded project funded by the National Security Agency (NSA) to increase U.S. citizens’ understanding of foreign languages. Franklin’s STARTALK Program, which was held in partnership with the Hindi Sangam Foundation, is just one of the more than 100 STARTALK immersions nationwide. In addition to Hindi, other immersions teach a variety of languages including Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese.


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