Florida International University Awarded Two Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants

In September, the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) welcomed two Fulbright foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs). Through a collaborative effort between the Center for Academic Success, the Department of Modern Languages and FIU’s Senior International Officer Hilarion Martinez, SIPA has been able to expand its highly rated Portuguese Language Program and offer Persian for the first time in FIU history. “We are so fortunate to have been awarded two FLTAs by IIE, especially in strategic languages” said SIPA Exectuive Director John F. Stack, Jr. “The ability to communicate in a foreign language is fundamental to the understanding of today’s globalized world and indispensable for success in contemporary work environments,” he added.

Administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program enables young educators from foreign countries to refine their teaching skills, increase their English language proficiency and extend their knowledge of the cultures and customs of the United States while engaging in non-degree studies at accredited US universities. Along with their studies, FLTAs teach language courses, supervise language labs, lead language table discussions, participate in conversation groups and cultural extra-curricular activities, and serve as guest speakers in civilization courses, among other roles.

A native of Brazil, FLTA Caroline de Azevedo Rocha is serving as a teaching assistant in the Portuguese Language Program. Portuguese is spoken by nearly 200 million people worldwide. It is the third most widely spoken language in the Western Hemisphere and the single most widely spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere. Brazil has one of the largest economies in the world and Portuguese is quickly becoming an important language of world commerce. The economic relations between the US and Brazil are strong and growing rapidly. As a result, the Portuguese proficiency is highly sought after throughout the US employment market.

“At FIU, the demand for Portuguese instruction has increased greatly over the years, so Caroline’s assistance is invaluable to us,” said Augusta Vono, director of FIU’s Portuguese Language Program.

Because of the FLTA Program, FIU has been able not only to augment its Portuguese program, but also able to offer Persian for the very time. FLTA Majeed Noroozi, a native of Iran and a former English instructor at the Iranian Language Institute, is teaching Beginning Persian. Persian is a widely spoken language of the Middle East and Central Asia. It is the official language of Iran and Tajikistan and an important language spoken in Afghanistan. There are 62 million speakers worldwide, with another 50 million people who speak it as a second language. Persian is a considered a critical language in the US because the demand for speakers far exceeds the number of people with adequate proficiency. Iran and the neighboring countries of Central Asia are of great strategic importance to the US and the need to improve and sustain relations with these countries drives a growing demand for proficient speakers of Persian.

“Middle East Studies is a strategic component of SIPA’s academic mission,” said SIPA Associate Director Shlomi Dinar. “The opportunity to offer Persian alongside Arabic and Hebrew advances the program immeasurably,” he added.

The FLTA Program offers SIPA a wonderful opportunity to enhance the knowledge of foreign languages and cultures by FIU students. The program has become a significant resource for foreign language instruction in the United States. “It is my sincere hope that through our good relationship with IIE, FLTAs will continue to come to FIU and participate in this important exchange program,” said FIU Senior International Officer Lari Martinez, highlighting the notion that foreign language instruction is a vital and effective avenue of mutual understanding.