JANUARY 23, 2019


STARTALK delegation members

CityU STARTALK delegation to the annual conference in Houston this year. From left: Marie Meyer, mentor teacher; Pollyanna Wang, Lab School Principal; Dr. Marge Chow, co-director; Betty Lau, director; Jinran Wan, alumni mentor.

By Dr. Margaret Chow, Co-Director, Star Talk


STARTALK is a project funded by the National Security Agency and administered by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland (University of Maryland, n.d.). After 9/11, US intelligence agencies experienced a shortage of Arabic interpreters and translators; and this need occupied a prominent place on the national agenda.  In 2006, President Bush created the National Security Language Initiative to ramp up non-traditional language programs; and one of the off springs is the Star Talk program.

Critical Foreign Languages

STARTALK declared two goals:  1) to increase numbers of students learning critical languages, then defined as Arabic and Chinese and 2) to increase the numbers of teachers of Arabic and Chinese through professional development to meet the needs of national defense, international diplomacy, and the national economy. Since 2007, Star Talk has increased the number of critical languages to include Korean, Dari, Farsi, Hindi, Russian, Portuguese, Swahili, Turkish, Spanish, among others.

Teacher Certification Program

This year, through a $90,000 federal grant, STARTALK is partnering with CityU to fund an alternative route to teacher certification program for speakers of Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.  Despite impressive growth in Star Talk programs, our CityU/STARTALK partnership is the only one nationally that offers a teacher certification pathway from start to finish in just four quarters.  On the state level, this program contributes significantly to teacher diversity.  Locally, there has been an explosion of public and private schools offering Chinese; a sustained interest in Spanish; a smaller number offering Korean; and a growing interest in offering the other languages in this grant.

Tuition Scholarship

Fifteen grant scholarships fund application fees, online preparation activities, and first quarter tuition (summer).  In addition to oral and written proficiency in one of these languages, interested individuals must meet all Washington state prerequisites and requirements for teacher certification. The location for both courses and Lab School is Chong Wa Hall in the historic Seattle Chinatown District. Chong Wa Education Society is one of several community partners.

Impressive Support

During the program’s one year apprenticeship, CityU supports teacher candidates (most are non-native English speakers) with personalized field supervision, seminars, alumni reunion, and workshops.


Why call it STARTALK? The “Mother of STARTALK” is Dr. Laura Murray, who greatly influenced this unique legislation for the National Security Language Initiative.  Dr. Murray was a huge fan of the smash hit movies of Star Trek; and in considering a name of this project, coined STARTALK!

Interested individuals are encouraged to go to the STARTALK website https://startalk.umd.edu/public/ and/or contact CityU enrollment adviser Faye Watanabe (fwatanabe@cityu.edu). 

Application link https://www.cityu.edu/applications-overview/undergraduate-application/

Dr. Chow is also the Director of Educational Leadership Programs, School of Applied Leadership.


Chong Wa Benevolent Association (n.d.) Retrieved from  https://www.chongwa.org/

National Security Language Initiative for Youth Program [NSLI-Y] (n.d.). What is NSLI-Y. Retrieved from https://www.nsliforyouth.org/

University of Maryland (n.d.). About StarTalk. Retrieved from https://startalk.umd.edu/public/

From STARTALK Graduates

Sunny Lee

Sunny Lee, Sehome High School and Fairhaven Middle School

STARTALK program has given me an opportunity to advance my teaching career.  I am now a certified teacher AND for that I am grateful.

Feng Zhou

Feng Zhou, Rainier Beach High School

I am grateful that STARTALK offered me an opportunity to serve the young people as an educator.

Jennifer Lee

Jennifer Lee, Bellevue High School, Substitute Teacher

STARTALK gave me the opportunity to comprehend the joy of teaching… and fulfill my dreams.