Language program faces possible cuts

    The UCSD Heritage Language Program is in financial danger because of university budgetary issues and could be cut midway through the year, according to Robert Kluender, chair of the linguistics department.

    “At this point, we don’t have enough money to get through the year,” he said. “Every year we have a bit of trouble, but this one is especially hard.”

    The program began in 2001, when a graduate student started an informal Armenian language class, which quickly gained popularity.

    This unplanned beginning precluded any long-term financial planning for the Heritage Language Program according to Kluender. He also said university budget cuts pose an additional burden for the program.

    The program is geared toward “heritage speakers,” which Kluender defined as “those who were exposed to their native language in childhood but became dominant in English later in life.”

    “There seemed to be quite a response initially,” Kluender said. “In response to that, we tried to add on more languages to the program.”

    The strongest interest in the program comes from students whose speaking ability doesn’t reach their comprehension level of their native language, according to Kluender.

    It includes Persian, Armenian, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese languages. Arabic had been offered previously, but was not included this fall.

    “The program really serves students that want to know more of their native language,” Vietnamese American Youth Alliance Committee chair Tri Nguyen said. “It builds on the foundation that you already have of your language.”

    Campus administrators said they have responded to demand for the program, as Dean of Social Sciences Paul Drake granted a special allocation of $48,000 to the Heritage Language program last summer.

    “We thought it was a very innovative, creative and exciting program,” Drake said. “It could be a great service to the San Diego community.”

    Kluender is drafting a grant request to the U.S. Department of Education for funds for South Asian studies, which would benefit Heritage Language Programs such as Vietnamese and Tagalog.

    While he is grateful for the administration’s aid, Kluender said more money is needed to keep the young Heritage Language Program afloat.

    Various UCSD student organizations have responded to the cause. For example, the Vietnamese Students Associations at UCSD and San Diego State and VAYA held a “Saving Language, Saving Diversity” concert at a San Diego high school on Oct. 16.

    The concert raised approximately $8,171, according to Nguyen, far short of the $47,000 needed to fund the Vietnamese Heritage Language Program this year.

    The concert featured traditional Vietnamese performances as well as modern native Vietnamese singers.

    “People were really supportive,” said concert attendee and Thurgood Marshall College freshman Jaclene Le. “It was a really good effort and there were a lot of sponsors.”

    The groups banded together for the event in order to provide additional funds to the program, according to a letter sent to possible sponsors.

    “As part of the effort to save the Heritage Language Program at UCSD, we are organizing a Heritage Concert to raise funds for this excellent program,” VAYA stated in the letter. “Due to our limited budget, we have to look for sponsorships from individuals, businesses and organizations … who, in return, may benefit from sponsoring this project.”

    The Vietnamese sections of the program are the most popular among students, with three class sections of approximately 30 students each during the current quarter, according to Kluender.

    The UCSD Pilipino Students Saving Tagalog group has also been involved in aiding the language program, hosting charity banquets the past two years for the Tagalog Heritage Language Program, in conjunction with UCSD Kaibigang Pilipino. The groups plan to sponsor another similar banquet during winter quarter, according to KP Academic Director and PSST core member Jimiliz Valiente.

    Kluender said that he had reached out to student organizations for aid.

    “Everyone seems very motivated,” he said. “We need the student organizations to reach out to the community for support of the program.”

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