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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 three 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 and 3) create materials and curricula to support teaching and learning of Startalk languages. Since 2007, Star Talk critical languages include Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Farsi, Russian, and Spanish under certain conditions.

Teacher Certification Program

Through a federal grant, STARTALK is partnering with CityU to fund support for many non-native English speakers to complete an alternative route to teacher certification program The candidates join CityU’s alternative route program and earn one or more of endorsements in Special Education, English Language Learners, Math, Reading and Elementary. Once they receive their residency certificate, they take a “test only” endorsement for World Language.

Despite impressive growth in Star Talk programs, our CityU/STARTALK partnership is the only one nationally that offers this assistance 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.  The specific languages included may vary yearly based on interest.

Tuition Scholarship

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 tthe National Register Seattle Chinatown Historic District. Chong Wa Education Society is one of several community partners.

Impressive Support

In addition to the one year apprenticeship in alternative routes, where CityU supports teacher candidates with personalized field supervision, seminars, courses, training in their chosen shortage areas, The Startalk program also collaborates with the Chinese Language Teachers Association of Washington and the Washington Association For Language Teaching to provide additional professional development opportunities, including alumni meetings and preparation to take the World Languages endorsement exam.


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 Melissa Ann Nagamine (nagaminema@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.

Published January 23, 2019