Turkish Culture And Language Olympiad Southwestern States In America Contests
The mission of Turkish Culture and Language Olympiads of Southwestern States in America is to contribute to linguistic and cultural diversity of the United States by encouraging and motivating students in secondary schools and colleges as well as adult learners to showcase their knowledge and skills of Turkish language and its culture in a friendly contest and to develop understanding and respect among cultures.
About the Program
Raindrop Foundation has organized Turkish Culture and Language Olympiads in Texas since 2007. This year’s contests will host contestants from six states: Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arkansas. Students will compete in 10 categories: Singing, Poem Recitation, Speech, Language, Folk Dance, Talent, Presentation, Art, and Turkish Cuisine.
In addition to students from K-12 schools and universities in above-mentioned states, students learning Turkish language and cuisine at Raindrop Foundation locations in Texas and neighboring states will compete in adult category.
The winners will be awarded at the Turkish Culture and Language Olympiad Awards Gala to be held at Hobby Center / Sarofim Hall in Houston Texas and they will represent the Southwestern States of America in Turkey among the representatives of over 140 countries.
The United States of America is proud to be among the most diverse cultures in the world. One in every three Americans is considered a minority (Humes, Jones & Ramirez, 2011). USA is also increasing diversity through new immigrants. In 2013, nearly 1.8 million people became US citizens or permanent residents (Lee & Foreman, 2014; Monger & Yankay, 2014).. According to 2010 census, 20.6% of the population five years or over speak a language other than English in their homes. This is about one in every five Americans. However, according to Gallup survey in 2001, one in every four Americans can hold a conversation in a second language (McComb, 2001). These two statistics reveal that about 5% of the Americans other than the heritage speakers can hold a conversation in a second language. This contradicts the evident importance of foreign languages for the country. The teaching of foreign languages did not flourish in the USA until World War II. The Army Specialized Training Program was initiated in 1942 to meet the need for Americans who can speak other languages during the war. Another important significant point was the National Defense Education Act signed in 1958 following the launch of Sputnik by the Russians and the act provided support for the study of foreign languages (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). The current level of language learning has not progressed well, as evident from statistics.
Teaching of foreign languages was important in 1950’s, but is it not now? Speaking at the Foreign Language Summit in 2010, then CIA director, Former Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta said, “For the United States to get to where it needs to be will require a national commitment to strengthening America’s foreign language proficiency” and he added that language skills are “fundamental to US competitiveness and security” (cia.gov).
Speaking at the same summit, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan expressed, “Americans need to read, speak and understand other languages …only 18% of Americans report speaking a language other than English” as opposed to 53% of Europeans (Skorton & Altschuler, 2012). Skorton and Altschuler (2012) emphasize that it is essential for Americans in different fields to speak less commonly taught languages. In 2006, National Security Language Initiative was formed in collaboration with U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education and the National Security Agency. The program currently offers support in seven critical languages including Turkish (nsliforyouth.org). Critical
Linguistic diversity is not at the level of ethnic diversity. According to 2010 census, one in every three American is a minority. Since language and culture are inseparable (Jiang, 2000), it is important to emphasize language to preserve and increase diversity in every aspect. This is also related to the idea that language and though are interwoven. American linguist Lee Whorf (1956 : 214) says that “all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar.” According to Whorf, people who can speak different languages could see and interpret things differently while looking at the same things. Having linguistic diversity is an asset as it will bring different ways of thinking to the country. Boroditsky (2001) ran some experiments and found that people who are trained in another language conceptualize things like time differently than other native speakers of their first language who are not trained in that second language. Knowing a second language provides the ability to think differently. Likewise, Kuruchinina et.al. (2012, p. 571) says “there is a serious reason to believe that learning a second language contributes to the expansion of the functional capabilities of the brain and creates the basis for successful cognitive activity.”
Turkish Culture and Language Olympiads of Southwest America is important in these respects. The goal of the program is to contribute to linguistic and cultural diversity in Southwestern region by promoting learning of Turkish, which is a critical need language for USA. The organizers foresee that students who learn a foreign language will be able to interact with people from other cultures and get to know them better. This will increase cross-cultural understanding between individuals.
Additionally, students who learn a foreign language will become a multicultural themselves and will take a step towards being a global citizen. The motto of the Olympiad is “one language means one person,” an idiom in Turkish to emphasize how learning a language means opening doors to knowing other peoples and cultures.
The program is also in line with the language standards of American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). ACTFL established standards in five areas: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons and communities. According to ACTFL (actfl.org):
· Communication is at the heart of second language study
· Students gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language
· Learning languages provides connections to additional bodies of knowledge
· Through comparisons, students develop insight into the nature of language and the concept of culture and realize that there are multiple ways of viewing the world.
· These elements enable the student of languages to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world.
By promoting the learning of Turkish language and culture, Turkish Culture and Language Olympiads of Southwest America complies with the standards for foreign language learning.
Why Support the Olympiad
Reasons to Support the Olympiad
-It is essential for the United States to have more citizens who can speak critical languages and this Olympiad is in line with this long standing goal of the United States.
- This event supports and encourages foreign language learning in the USA as established by ACTFL.
- This event provides an arena where both students and adults in the southwestern states can experience and showcase a less commonly known culture.
- The winners of the contests represent the USA in an international Olympiad held in Turkey. While our students represent our country and culture, they also have the unique experience of a total cultural exposure by spending two weeks in Turkey with students from over 140 countries.
- Teaching modern languages and cultures has been important for this country since World War II. Participating students get motivated and prepare for this event for weeks and improve their language skills as well as cultural knowledge.
- A problem of our time is the lack of understanding between people from different cultures due to the lack of knowledge of other cultures. By showcasing the Turkish language and culture, this program enhances participants' understanding between different groups of our society.
- This event is one of a group of events promoting Turkish language and culture that Raindrop Foundation organizes. Other events include Turkish and ESL classes, cuisine classes, Turkic cultures festivals, and cultural nights. All these events together support environments where students can learn languages and different aspects of other cultures.
Boroditsky, L. (2001). Does language shape thought?: Mandarin and English speakers’ conceptions of time. Cognitive Psychology, 43, 1-22.
CIA. (2010). CIA Director Calls for a National Commitment to Language Proficiency at Foreign Language Summit. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/news-information/press-releases-statements/press-release-2010/foreign-language-summit.html
Humes, K. R., Jones, N. A. & Ramirez, R. R. (2011). Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin:2010. 2010 Census Briefs (Report No. C2010BR-02). Retrieved from
Jiang, W. (2000). The relationship between culture and language. ELT Journal, 54(4),328-334.
Kruchinina, O. V., Galperina, E. I., Kats, E. E. & Shepoval’nikov, A. N. (2012). Factors affecting the variability of the central mechanisms for maintaining bilingualism. Human Physiology, 36(6), 571-585.
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Monger, R. & Yankay, J. (2014). Annual Flow Report. U.S. Permanent Residents: 2013.Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_lpr_fr_2013.pdf
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Skorton, D. & Altschuler, G. (2012). America’s foreign languages deficit. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/collegeprose/2012/08/27/americas-foreign-language-deficit/
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