The goal of the Less Commonly Taught and Indigenous Languages Partnership, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is to create sustainable models for language instruction. We hope to transform the way LCTLs have been traditionally taught by leveraging cutting edge research and advances in instructional technology so that more students, across more institutions, achieve at least intermediate high proficiency in more LCTLs. LCTL courses have historically faced a variety of economic, logistical, or personnel-related challenges. This project attempts to bring together language specialists in a variety of LCTLs to develop sustainable models for language instruction and is designed to provide the pedagogical flexibility needed to respond effectively to the context of teaching for a given language.

The grant is facilitated by the Center for Language Teaching Advancement (CeLTA) at Michigan State University on behalf of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (formerly the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, or CIC).

LCTL Partnership Cycle 2

In 2019, Michigan State University was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, for a four-year cycle from September 2019 to August 2023. This cycle of the LCTL Partnership will support further development in the research and teaching of LCTLs, with an emphasis on Indigenous languages.

The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and a major focus of this grant is to promote Indigenous languages through collaborative research and curricular work with Indigenous communities. In order to do this work, the current grant cycle will expand to support Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), which is an Indigenous language spoken in the Michigan area and Great Lakes region. The LCTL Partnership will develop an Anishinaabemowin program that will serve the needs of Michigan’s Indigenous nations as well as establish a model for other Indigenous language instruction rooted within Indigenous communities and aligned with Indigenous knowledge systems.

The LCTL Partnership also will use the Mellon funding to continue to develop additional courses in Hebrew and Portuguese, while continuing to promote already-developed materials in Swahili and Hindi.

In this grant cycle, we propose to carry out the following major activities:

  • Develop and promote proficiency-based language courses.
  • Promote and facilitate strategic coordination of LCTL instruction.
  • Develop innovative online courses as open educational resources for two LCTLs (Hebrew and a LCTL with limited institutional support)
  • Promote the existing (Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew) and new proficiency-based open educational resources (OER) across and beyond the Big Ten Academic Alliance.
  • Promote Indigenous languages through participatory collaborative research, pedagogical models, and curricular work which places members of Indigenous language communities at the center as equal partners in the initiative.
  • Acknowledge and support the existing networks and curriculum development of Indigenous language communities. All work with these communities will be guided by project values of equity, transparency, and community.
  • Support professional development and network opportunities for LCTL and Indigenous language instructors.
  • Create research opportunities for existing LCTLs and Indigenous language scholars and students.

Click to read a press release about the project from the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State.

LCTL Partnership Cycle 1

The first cycle of the grant ($1.2 million) ran from September 2016 through August 2019. Each of the three years had its own goals and foci, building toward the creation of a manual containing curriculum templates, checklists, webinar templates, best practices, and advice from the working groups on this project. This manual can be used for future development of LCTL courses and will support long-term sustainability of the initiative.

In the first year of the project, the goal for development was to create hybrid/online modules targeting advanced students for one selected LCTL and to offer workshops that focus on professional development and the sharing of best practices. Swahili was chosen as the language of initial focus based on input from our partner institutions.

In the second year, the models created in the first year were used to begin development with a second LCTL, Hindi. Implementation and modification of the Swahili curriculum continued, as did professional development.

In the third and final year of the grant, the models of years one and two will be tested with a third LCTL, Hebrew.

CYCLE 1Project Year 1Project Year 2Project Year 3
Language 1 (Swahili)XX
Language 2 (Hindi)XX
Language 3 (Hebrew)X

Click to read a press release about the project from the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State.

Click to read a commentary from Europe Now about the project, entitled “From Collaboration to Strategic Coordination: Creating LCTL Partnerships Across the Big 10 Academic Alliance.”