UVA, Duke, and Vanderbilt LCTLs Initiative  

The Consortium for Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs) is an initiative among University of Virginia (UVA), Duke University, and Vanderbilt University. It was initially launched by joint effort between UVA and Duke in fall 2013 and expanded to a three-institutional partnership in fall 2015 when Vanderbilt officially joined it. Instructors used immersive real-time and high-definition TelePresence system (CISCO) to allow course exchange across the three campuses. The Consortium started with three less commonly taught languages: Elementary Tibetan taught by DEALLC instructor Tsetan Nepali (UVA), Elementary Creole taught by Jacques Pierre (Duke), and Elementary K'iche' taught by Mareike Sattler (Vanderbilt). Each language was taught at their host institution and made available to students at the other participating universities. Since 2019, Swahili has replaced Tibetan, taught by Leonora Anyango (elementary) and Anne Rotich (intermediate) at UVA. In 2021, Turkish was added as the fourth language, taught by Didem Havlioglu (Duke). As the consortium evolves, four less commonly taught languages are taught purely online or hybrid through Zoom. At UVA, three faculty members serve as faculty coordinators: Allison Bigelow (K’iche’), Karen James (Haitian Creole), and Daniel Lefkowitz (Turkish).  

On March 2, 2023, Duke and Vanderbilt faculty and administrators visited UVA to celebrate, reconnect, and reflect on ten years of collaboration and generate visionary future plans. Different parties met with the Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts, department chairs and faculty, administrators at the registrar office, and A&S Learning Design and Technology to discuss seamless coordination for academic and administrative matters in the future.

A series of language-specific activities and events took place within four departments on grounds: Carter Woodson Institute (Swahili), French (Haitian Creole), Middle Eastern Languages and South Asian Languages and Cultures (Turkish), and Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese (K’iche’). An information session on Shared Consortium for Less Commonly Taught languages was held at 3:30-4:30PM at Language Commons. Five faculty gave presentations to promote Haitian Creole, K’iche’, Swahili, Turkish, and Malagasy (potentially to be added in fall 2024). The presenters were Jacques Pierre (Duke), Mareike Sattler (Vanderbilt), Leonora Anyango (UVA), Didem Havlioglu (Duke), and Tendry Randriamanana (Vanderbilt) in order. After the presentations, faculty and students interacted and connected at different stations to explore the uniqueness of each less commonly taught language.  


Contemplative Pedagogy Brings Mindfulness to Classrooms 

For many years, faculty in the IWL community have incorporated Contemplative Pedagogy in language teaching and learning and have yielded fruitful outcomes. Contemplative approaches center human flourishing and well-being and foster deep learning through focused attention, reflection, and self-awareness of body-mind connection. Diverse strategies and techniques have been used by IWL faculty to quiet students’ minds and cultivate their capacity for insight, such as contemplative inquiry, mindful movement practice, contemplative reading and writing exercise, breath work, visulization, and so on. These help students lower stress levels, decrease anxiety, develop a more compassionate understanding of themselves and others, improve concentration and attention, enhance positive emotions and resilience, and create a more just, compassionate, and reflective mind. In many language classes at UVA, faculty strive  to create an open space for silence and reflection that makes possible transformative dimension of language learning. 

Faculty witness numerous benefits in classes, for example, better health, a steadier mind, increased insight, improved relationships, to name a few. Many also report feeling refreshed, and re-invigorated, and most importantly, having changed perspectives of what an ideal language curriculum could do to create a safe, passionate, and motivating learning environment.

In May 2019, IWL and UVA Contemplative Sciences Center co-organized a faculty retreat on contemplative pedagogy across language programs towards a more mindful learning experience. Since then, the sustained use of Contemplative Pedagogy continues to bring about meaningful experience to students’ studies and life in the academic and interpersonal spheres.


UVA STARTALK Prepares Language Educators to Teach Online 

The Virginia STARTALK Chinese Teacher Academy, developed and directed by Miao-fen Tseng, has received up to 1.5 million since 2008. The program strives for excellence in preparing Chinese language teachers to teach in-person, hybrid, and online and offers graduate course credits to enhance and advance participants’ teaching credentials toward the pursuit or renewal of their certificate in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. With proven excellence and glowing testimonials from teacher participants since 2008, the VSCTA program at the University of Virginia (UVA) has established an excellent reputation for academic rigor and quality training and continues to inspire Chinese language educators. Through UVA STARTALK’s innovative training model, participants develop strong global leadership for teaching in Mandarin Chinese through face-to-face, hybrid, and online instructional modes.  

In its first eight years (2008–2015), UVA STARTALK successfully implemented in-person teacher training and practicum. With a combination program in 2016–2019, UVA STARTALK demonstrated its ability to also prepare teachers to teach online. In response to the high demands for online teaching with the outbreak of COVID-19, the UVA STARTALK team mobilized quickly to launch free training sessions for the wider Chinese language teaching community in 2020. Many UVA STARTALK Teaching Fellows acted as regional leaders and played impactful roles in offering free online sharing sessions in different regions of the nation. We feel enormously grateful for the continual federal funding in the past thirteen years, and for the opportunity to help our community face the challenges of such a critical and challenging time. 

The 2021 program marks a milestone for a new programmatic framework: the program length is extended beyond intensive summer training to also include fall teaching in local classrooms. This has proven to be the most effective design for transitioning to “real” teaching through a seamless coaching and reflective process. The 2023 program will continue to build on the success of the 2021 innovative model to help fulfill individualized professional goals in accordance with the educational endeavors of teaching fellows’ local schools.     

The 2023 program celebrates its 14th anniversary and marks its 6th year in leading national pioneering work on online teaching in Mandarin Chinese. It aims to recruit 12 passionate teachers nationwide. The recruited teachers will actively engage in synchronous and asynchronous interactive platforms. The three-week online teacher program begins with one week of ONLINE asynchronous training (June 26–30), followed by two weeks of IN-PERSON training (July 2–14) at the Academic Village of the University of Virginia. Intensive summer training is followed and strengthened by post-program coaching activities in the fall. 

Please visit the 2023 STARTALK program website and complete online application. Selected teacher participants will enjoy free graduate credits, lodging and food, and receive travel reimbursement up to $680. Admission will be granted on a rolling basis. Please send inquiries to the assistant director, Dr. Pei-Ying Gosselin at The following provides a list of peer-reviewed publications on STARTALK teacher and student programs. 

Tseng M., & Gao, Y. 2021. Teach Chinese Online: An Essential Guide. Phoenix Tree Publisher. 

Tseng, M., Geng Z., & Cai, L. 2021. 以教師反思分析線上中文教學有效原則之應用 (An analysis of the application of effective principles for online Chinese language teaching). 國際漢語教學研究 (Journal of International Chinese Teaching), p. 27-38.    

Tseng, M., Sun, Y., & Lan, Y. 2020. A study of online synchronous immersive communication in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Technology and Chinese Language Teaching, 11(2), p. 1-23.   

Tseng, M. 2020. 線上華語教學必備技能培訓之研究報告 (A study of required skills for online Chinese language teaching). 華語文教學多元視野與跨界思考 (Thinking from Multi-Perspectives and Cross-Disciplines in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language), p. 283-310. National Taiwan University Press. 

Tseng, M., Gao, Y, & Cai\, L. 2019. 中文線上課堂有效結合科技工具以強化互動之報告 (Enhancing interaction through the effective incorporation of technology tools for a virtual Chinese language classroom). Journal of Technology and Chinese Language Teaching, 10(1), 91-113. 

Tseng, M., Lin, C, & Chen, H. 2018. An immersive flipped classroom for learning Mandarin Chinese: design, implementation, and outcomes. Journal of Computer-Assisted Language Learning.

Tseng, M. 2017. The Development of Skills Required for Online Chinese Language Teaching, in Journal of Technology and Chinese Language Teaching, 8(1), 36-55. 

Tseng, M., Broadstock, M, Chen, H. 2016. An investigation of the design of a four-stage flipped classroom in Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Technology and Chinese Language Teaching 7(1),15-42.


Language Learning ePortfolios

In 2014, colleagues from French and Spanish initiated a project to integrate ePortfolio pedagogy in beginning and intermediate language courses. This project, directed by Emily Scida (Spanish) and Karen James (French), was supported with three years of LTi grants and over time included faculty and courses in seven world languages (Arabic, Chinese, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish) at all undergraduate levels as well as graduate courses. Yitna Firdyiwek (Instructional Designer, A&S Learning Design and Technology) provided valuable mentorship and support throughout the project.

The following faculty played key roles in the implementation of the project in their language programs: Lilian Feitosa (Portuguese), Rachel Geer (French), Esperanza Gorriz (Spanish), Elizabeth Hall (French), Stella Mattioli (Italian), Bilal Maanaki (Arabic), Suad Mohamed (Arabic), Kate Neff (Spanish), Esther Poveda (Spanish), Cécile Rey (French), Pam Rini (Spanish), Spyros Simotas (French), Paula Sprague (Spanish), Matthew Street (Spanish), Ran Zhao (Chinese).

Our project sought a more comprehensive approach to assessment of language learning (including communicative competence and cultural competence) both at the course level and at the program level through ePortfolio integration. In other words, ePortfolios support student assessment in a particular course as well as between courses and at the end of the language sequence (ending with the 2020 level). The ePortfolio model of assessment facilitates a more global and comprehensive evaluation of student performance in all areas of language learning – linguistic knowledge (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.), proficiency development (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), and cultural learning – by prompting the student to collect, choose, and reflect on those artifacts from the course that best represent their progress in each of the areas described above. Artifacts selected for the ePortfolio include multimedia projects or assignments, such as video or audio oral exams, video projects, digital storytelling, etc. The portfolio also provides students with a personalized space to reflect on their learning in a particular assignment, on their progress at the end of a course, and upon completing the intermediate world language sequence in 2020. In creating their portfolio, the student sets goals, self-assesses their own learning along the way, and evaluates and refines future goals, resulting in a more self-directed learning experience.

Integration of a learning portfolio in these courses also benefits the teacher.  The ePortfolio allows instructors to assess student learning more globally, with a collection of student artifacts of their progress in multiple modes of communication in one place. These artifacts include activities to assess cultural competencies and skill development – listening and speaking through audio or video files, reading and writing through text or other multimedia. The tool also helps new teachers (new GTAs) to develop their pedagogical materials and refine and reflect on their teaching style and goals. Instructors who use this method of assessment might easily apply it to other courses and contexts in their future teaching.


James, K., Scida, E., & Firdyiwek, Y. (2019). ePortfolios in a World Language Learning Curriculum.  In ePortfolio-as-Curriculum: Diverse Models and Practices. Ed., Kathleen Blake Yancey. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Scida, E., James, K., & Firdyiwek, Y. (2016).  E-portfolios for Assessment of Student Learning in World Language Programs.  The Language Educator 11 (2), Mar/Apr.


Community-based Experience Learning Makes a Difference 

Faculty in Chinese, French, Spanish, Swahili, and teaching English as a second language have created a wide spectrum of community-based engagement projects and courses. 

Shu-Chen Chen has been teaching classes with a community engagement component which she initiated since spring, 2019.  She has also started a new course in spring, 2022, i.e., CHIN4801: Professional Chinese with Community Engagement in which international community members join the class through zoom. The highlight of the class was when a HR specialist from a Taiwanese semi-conductor company ran a mock job interview for the students and gave them extremely useful feedback on the spot.

Janay Crabtree’s project on the Lingletes Linguistic Challenge is a  partnership between UVA students in LING 3400: Structure of English and Virginia high-school 11th and 12th grade students. The high school students learn about linguistics over an approximately eight-week period via Zoom with university students as a type of peer mentoring learning opportunity. High school students then come to UVA and compete in a linguistics challenge to solve linguistic problems similar to the ones they have worked on all semester. This program is a way to develop peer mentoring and use of knowledge for UVA students studying linguistics. The problem sets help us reflect on languages that we may not have come into contact with, while reflecting on the structures of English—a deeper way to understand varying languages for all interested in language. 

For several years Anne Rotich is leading Swahili language learners to interact with the local Swahili refugee community and work together in different initiatives. Students have translated materials to Kiswahili for the benefit of the community, and they have also engaged high school ESL Swahili students and participated in events together during the Africa Day event at UVA or during the Swahili film night organized by Swahili students.  

In 2019, Esther Poveda created a community-based language learning course-sequence: SPAN 3020 (Writing for Social Justice and Change) and SPAN 3030 (Sí se puede- Community Engagement in Spanish Speaking Charlottesville). This course-sequence promotes student learning about issues of social justice in the Charlottesville Latinx community by bringing together class discussion, conversations with guest speakers and community work. Students in these courses did community work as bilingual tutors and interpreters with Madison House Latinx and Migrant Aid, the UVA Latino Health Initiative, and the UVA Equity Center Multilingual Tutoring Program, a program that aimed to reduce academic inequalities faced by local emergent bilingual high school students in core academic subject areas. Additionally, the students that took these courses have developed podcasts for the community agents, and a wealth of bilingual educational resources for K-12 teachers, students, and parents which have been made available through the Support Cville Education Equity and the Virginia Dual Language Educators Network websites. Students that take the course in Spring 2023 will serve as bilingual tutors and mentors with the bran-new UVA Equity Center Starr Hill Pathways Program


UVa, Duke, and Vanderbilt LCTL CISCO Initiative

The "Less Commonly Taught Languages" (LCTL) joint initiative by Duke University, Vanderbilt, and UVA uses immersive real-time and high-definition TelePresence system (CISCO) to allow language instruction across the two campuses.  In the Fall of 2013, DEALLC instructor Tsetan Nepali (UVA) teaches Elementary Tibetan, Jacques Pierre (Duke) teaches Elementary Creole, and Mareike Sattler (Vanderbilt) teaches Elementary K'iche'. Each of these languages is taught at their host institution and made available to students at the other participating universities.


Roundtable Series on Language Teaching and Learning

With a Grant for Learning awarded in Spring 2012, Emily Scida (Department of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese) spearheaded a series of five monthly roundtable discussions on foreign language teaching and learning.  The roundtables created an interdepartmental learning community of teachers, bringing together GTAs, lecturers, and faculty who teach foreign language courses across eight different departments/programs to share innovative teaching ideas, research, and best practices.

For an up-to-date schedule of our Roundtables, see our events page. If no events are currently listed, please come back next semester!

See some of our Roundtable Series videos!


IWL Speaker Series

The Speaker Series creates an interactive platform for nationally and internationally renowned scholars and researchers to share cutting-edge research findings and practices in the teaching and learning of world languages, cultures, and advanced technology with UVa faculty across different world languages and disciplines. The series is centered around a central theme that our speakers address in their talks. The theme for 2015-16 is "Engage, Invite, Inspire: A Closer Look at World Language Pedagogy". 

For an up-to-date schedule of our Speaker Series talks, see our events page. If no events are currently listed, please come back next semester!

See some of our Speaker Series videos!


IWL Fall Symposium

IWL has currently hosted two fall symposiums, the first on October 31, 2012 and the second on October 30, 2015. The first IWL Fall Symposium announced the launch of the Institute of World Languages and the second was held in conjunction with International Education Week. Plans for future IWL Fall Symposiums are to-be-determined. For more information about our Fall 2015 symposium, please see our event page for program and presentation details.

See our Symposium presentations and videos!


IWL Faculty Retreat

The Faculty Retreat, newly launched in Spring 2015, aims to bring world language and literature faculty to a relaxing and thought-provoking workshop setting for professional development. It guides workshop participants through a model protocol to develop performance assessment tasks and "Can Do" statements that frame a course curriculum. This assessment system shapes entire majors and language programs, from literature to language, focusing on recurring ideas and themes you want students to revist and remember over time.

See the video from our 2015 Faculty Retreat!


IWL Language Dinner Table

The Language Dinner Table is a newly created IWL event designed to meet the needs of students who are passionate about learning world languages and cultures on grounds. By providing a dynamic, informal social setting, students are fully immersed in enriching discussions about language and culture in different target languages at dinner tables. The event allows students to practice their target language as well as meet people who share similar interests on grounds. We held our first IWL Language Dinner Table in Spring 2015 and another in Fall 2015 during International Education Week. This has been an extremely popular event that we hope to continue!


IWL Film Series

The IWL Film Series aims to enrich cross-cultural and multi-lingual experiences of world langauge learners in the community at UVa and beyond. The series began with a kickoff panel discussion on three principles for understanding the globe and continues as we screen seven different films in different world languages. In the Spring 2016 Film Series, we plan to screen films in Arabic, Russian, Italian, Swahili, Chinese, Hebrew, German, and Japanese.

For an up-to-date schedule of our Film Series screenings, see our events page. If no events are currently listed, please come back next semester!

All films are subtitled in English and open to all interested parties at no cost!


Tech Forward Fridays

This initiative supports ASCIT's goal of providing innovation and assistance in the area of instructional technology.  Began in Spring 2013, Tech Forward Fridays are training presentations on current software and web-based applications available to instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences.  While many of the tools are useful in L2 settings, their application goes beyond the language classroom.



TeacherTalk provides a space for language instructors across UVa to share, discuss and learn from their teaching experiences. On one hand, it is a collaborative tool that promotes communication among different language departments. On the other, it provides language professors and instructors with useful tools for their personal and professional development. In addition, TeacherTalk provides a dynamic tool for the Foreign Language Roundtables. There, you can find updates on present and future roundtables, summaries of previous ones, and open discussions to continue the topics of these round tables.

Discussion topics change every week and cover a variety of ideas/issues. Visit TeacherTalk to give your opinion and hear from your peers!


Outreach Initiatives

The College of Arts and Sciences encourages faculty and students to link their academic experiences at the university to initiatives that benefit the community as a whole. Fostering this partnerships is mutually beneficial, and the IWL, through the individual language departments, works closely with faculty, students, and community organizations to develop initiatives that engage U.Va’s academic expertise to facilitate language proficiency and enhance multi-cultural awareness in the local and global community.


Language Forward Initiatives

The initiative creates real-time immersive online programs that aim to expand opportunities for UVA students to interact with native speakers abroad. Building on connections forged by 12 UVA language faculty, students in 10 languages across 7 language departments will partner with native speakers abroad for synchronous online communication in 2018-19. Through cutting-edge online immersion, students will develop the linguistic proficiency and cultural fluency necessary for global leadership and aspire to be global leaders. The 10 languages include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Modern Hebrew, Russian, and Swahili.