Talking Tibetan

UVA partnership offers new language option
May 14, 2013

Future Blue Devils may soon greet each other with “Kusu dewo?” thanks to a new exchange program with the University of Virginia aimed at broadening the availability of low-visibility languages. Starting this fall, students in Durham will be able to take Tibetan-language classes, and students in Charlottesville will be able to enroll in Duke’s Creole courses.

“We aren’t replacing the face-to-face teaching of more commonly taught languages. We are protecting the languages that, in this economic climate, might not otherwise be sustained,” says Laurie Patton, dean of Trinity College.

Duke students will earn Duke credit for the UVA course and vice versa. Eventually, Duke officials hope to expand the program to other languages and include other interested universities. The courses will be taught in classrooms with Cisco TelePresence technology, a high-quality video conferencing system, at little cost to either university, officials say.

“We are protecting the languages that, in this economic climate, might not otherwise be sustained.”

“It makes you feel like you’re in the same room, which is critical for foreign-language teaching,” says Gil Merkx, director of international and area studies. Duke and UVA will offer three semesters of instruction in their respective languages to satisfy language requirements.

At Duke, Creole has gained a foothold because of the Haiti Lab, a three-year-old program at the Franklin Humanities Center. At UVA, Tibetan is taught through the Tibetan Center, founded in 2008 to examine that language and culture.