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Content-Based Language Instruction Workshop

The Portland State University Middle East Studies Center proudly hosted the Western Consortium of Title VI National Resource Centers for Middle East Studies’ Spring 2012 workshop.

This workshop focused on content-based instruction for Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish languages and drew on expertise from around the country as well as University resources, including Portland State’s Russian Flagship Program. Content-based instruction is among the cutting-edge areas of research in critical and less-commonly taught languages and Portland State University is well-positioned to lead pedagogical initiatives in the field. This conference has important practical consequences for a better understanding of pedagogical techniques and their application in the classroom; it also provides scholars with a unique opportunity to meet, exchange and confront their views and methodologies.



Portland State University is the proud host of a workshop on content-based instruction in widely spoken Middle East languages, commonly taught in North America: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish.

Content-based instruction (CBI) is a holistic approach to teaching and learning languages. It utilizes a content area, a subject matter, a disciplinary interest, or a theme as the context and pretext for the teaching and learning of a language. It can be described as the “learning of language through a subject matter” (Stryker and Leaver 5).

It is often falsely assumed that the study of the target language constitutes the sole activity in foreign language classrooms. The history of foreign language education, however, shows that subjects related to philology, literature and cultural studies have often served as the “content” of language instruction since the inception of language departments in the university. In this sense, CBI is not a novel idea. Perhaps what is new is the awareness of CBI among diverse professional communities, for example the systematic thinking about CBI in less commonly taught languages, which include languages of the Middle East; the integration of communicative and proficiency-based approaches in the CBI classroom; the inclusion of non-traditional subject matters among the contents in CBI; as well as the discussion of CBI’s implications for the entire curriculum.

In addition to literature and cultural studies, other disciplinary areas of specialization are utilized to connect North American campuses to contemporary issues in social and recreational life, business and trade, and politics and professional expertise in countries of the Middle East. As a result, content areas range from literature to math, from business administration to social work, from history to engineering. Sometimes languages are taught for specific purposes such as preparing future diplomats for foreign service. Other approaches to CBI, such as project-based instruction, utilizes student motivation and engagement with a topic for language learning purposes. CBI’s implications for the curriculum at large are visible in initiatives such as “Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum” (FLAC) and “Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum” (CLAC).

This workshop aims to address various debates about CBI—from project-based approaches to curricular models—in the context of Middle East Languages taught at institutions of higher education. It aims to bring Middle East languages to the center of CBI discussions, just as it aims to bring CBI to the center of academic exchanges regarding the teaching and learning of Middle East Languages.

Organizers of the workshop include Prof. Dirgham H. Sbait of Arabic/Semitic Languages and Folklore, Prof. Anousha Sedighi of Persian Language and Culture, Prof. Pelin Başcı of Turkish Language and Literature at Portland State University. The organizers would like to express their gratitude for the advice and input from their colleagues in the Department of World Languages and Literature and its distinguished Russian Flagship program: Dr. Steve Thorne, Dr. William Fischer, Dr. Sandra Freels, Dr. Anna Yatsenko as well as other contributors. They are also grateful to the staff and the director at PSU’s Middle East Studies Center, as well as the invaluable contributions of their colleagues— professors of Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish from the Western consortium, from various distinguished campuses across the nation, and in some cases, internationally, from Çukurova and Anadolu Universities and from American University in Cairo.

شكرا, תודה, سپاس, Teşekkürler!

Suggested sources for preliminary work on CBI:

  • Stryker, Stephen B. & Leaver, Betty Lou. (1997) Content-based instruction in foreign language education: models and methods. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.
  • European Commission. “Content and Language Integrated Learning
  • Beckett, G., & Miller, P. (2006). Project based Second and Foreign Language Education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.




Smith Memorial Student Union, Cascade Room (236), 1825 SW Broadway, Portland, OR

11 – 11:15 AM BREAK

Smith Memorial Student Union, Cascade Room (236)

12:45 – 2 PM LUNCH
Smith Memorial Student Union, room 296

Smith Memorial Student Union, Cascade Room (236)

3:30 – 3:45 PM BREAK

Smith Memorial Student Union, Cascade Room (236)

The Simon Benson House, 1803 SW Park Avenue

SUNDAY, MARCH 18, 2012

Broadway Housing Building, room 222, 621 SW Jackson St



Russian across the Curriculum: Design and Implementation of the Portland State University Russian Flagship Program

The Portland State University Russian Flagship Program, like all Language Flagship programs, is designed to permit undergraduates majoring in any discipline to attain ACTFL Superior proficiency in Russian. Portland State faculty will present the theoretical considerations and discuss the practical challenges of creating a new Russian curriculum for these students modeled on the Portland State general education program.

  • Sandra Freels received her Ph.D. in Russian Language and Literature from Stanford University in 1976 and joined the faculty of PSU in 1979. Her areas of specialty are Russian language, literature, and cultural history.
  • Olesya Kisselev received her MA in Applied Linguistics at Portland State University in 2008 following an MA in Foreign Languages and Methods of Teaching from Buryat State University in 2002. She has taught and investigated language for a number of years. She is currently involved in teaching Russian as a Foreign and Heritage Language and developing curriculum for the innovative Russian Language Flagship Partner Program at PSU. In collaboration with Professor Anna Yatsenko, Olesya is working on developing a Russian Learner Corpus of Academic Writing. Olesya Kisselev is also the current chair of Oregon Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (OATSEEL).
  • Anna Yatsenko earned her Ph.D. in Language Teaching Pedagogy, at Herzen State Pedagogical University, St. Petersburg, Russia. She has taught Russian language as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Russian as a Foreign Language at Herzen (1994–2003); as a Russian Language Scholar at Reed College, Portland, Oregon (1999–2001); as an Instructor at the Middlebury Russian School (2002–2005); as a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Texas, Austin (2002–2003); and as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Russian Department at Reed College (2003–2009). She is the author of two textbooks for foreign students of Russian and is co-author of a textbook for English-speaking students Advanced Russian through History. Professor Yatsenko’s research focuses on Russian grammar (syntax), stylistics and socio-linguistics, and methodology and the practice of teaching Russian (at the different levels).

I Really Give My Students the Business – A Language Course That Is Also a Student-Run Company

“SpeakEasy” is a student-run company, created in language courses. The students design, manufacture and sell language-related products (multilingual greeting cards, vocabulary tutorials, etc.), build the company structure, and plan its future – all in the target languages. The profits are being used to expand the company and the courses. “SpeakEasy” is now a university-sponsored entrepreneurship.

  • William B. Fischer received his Ph.D. from Yale. He specializes in language teaching, educational technology, language teacher training, and the interaction of science and technology with literature and language. His publications and projects are listed in detail on his personal website. They include textbooks for German and Spanish, computer-based language courses, a multilingual talking pictorial dictionary, software activities for listening and writing, a book about German science fiction, and miscellaneous publications about language, literature and culture. The computer-based language resources can be used from the “CosmoLingua” website. Career highlights include originating and writing the proposals for the Department’s Pew and Faculty Vitality grants (2001), delivering the keynote address at the annual convention of the Japanese National Computer Users’ Association (1997), and creating the first computer-based language course at PSU (1993-). Dr. Fischer is an amateur musician, with several appearances in Portland Opera productions; he also builds fine furniture and boats.

A Model of Teaching Turkish Language as Foreign Language: Anadolu University

Anadolu University has had experience with distance education since 1982. Anadolu University is proud to have implemented one of the most successful distance education programs in the world, which is taken as a model by many national and international educational institutions. As of Spring Semester 2011, the number of students in the 3 distance education faculties is 1,730,656. Anadolu University, a state university, houses 12 faculties (first cycle), 3 of which are distance education, 1 State Conservatory and 6 schools (first cycle), 3 vocational schools (short cycle), 5 graduate schools (second & third cycle) and 38 research centres and units. Every year approximately 300 Erasmus students come to Anadolu University. Many Erasmus students learn Turkish language in Anadolu University. Turkish language department gives opportunities to foreign students on teaching Turkish as foreign language.

  • Ferdi Bozkurt has been Turkish language lecturer in Anadolu University since 2007. He graduated from Turkish Language and Literature Department in 2005. He graduated Turkish Language and Literature Teacher Master Program in 2007. He started working in the field of Turkish language after his university graduation. In 2005-2007 he worked in private courses. In 2008-2009 he instructed Turkish for foreigners lessons in Turkish Army Language School as military teacher officer in his military service. He has worked in Turkish Certificate Program content development of the units and the books. He has been working as instructor at distant language programs teaching Turkish to foreigners. He instructs virtual classroom lessons for four years. He instructs Turkish Language and literature lessons for Turkish native students for many kinds of faculties.
  • Kevser Candemir has been Turkish language lecturer in Anadolu University since 2002. She graduated from Turkish Language and Literature Department in 1982. In 1982-2002 she worked in ministry of education high schools as Turkish language teacher. She started working in the field of Turkish language teaching as mother language. She instructs Turkish language and literature lessons for Turkish native students for many kinds of faculties in Anadolu University. She has been leading redaction of Anadolu University Open Education Faculty boks since 2002. She has attended six international, five national conferences about Turkish language, literature and teaching. She has been Turkish language department manager in Anadolu University for three years.

Extracurricular Materials for Content-based Instruction

Teaching Turkish through Content-based Instruction poses the question of the dearth of textbooks that focus on content-based themes rather than language patterns. While various disciplines have their textbooks for native speakers of Turkish, students for whom Turkish is a foreign language require pathways into content-courses. Extra-curricular materials play a significant role in helping students with this. This talk will introduce a sketch of a Turkish reader designed as a pathway into Turkish.

  • Gülden Tüm is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, Çukurova University, Turkey

Content-Based Instruction in Turkish: Opportunities and Concerns

After reviewing what historically the perception in the field has been concerning ‘content-based instruction,’ case studies will be examined. Although the focus will be on successful implementations, and establishing the reason of such successes, answers to questions raised by failures will also receive full attention. Considering that CBI in all its manifestations has been heralded as the answer to foreign language instruction for several decades, it is important to investigate why it has not caught on, what the role of the various players, including institutional and administrative structures, are. The Turkish case will then be discussed, giving an overview of present instructional practices at American institutions of higher learning as well as new promising venues on the horizon.

  • Erika Gilson received her Ph.D. in Turkology from the University of Pennsylvania, 1981. She is the executive secretary-treasurer of the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Turkish, Near Eastern Studies Department at Princeton University. Her research interests include language acquisition, instructional technology, language learning, second language acquisition, and writing as an enabling activity.

Issues in Assessment for Content Based Second Language Instruction: The What and How

Brinton et al, 1989 claim that more work has been invested in the development of CBI materials and implementation of programs than on assessment of students’ learning. “Assessment is an integral component of any instructional program.” (Weigle & Jensen 1997, p.201). This is so because it enables educators to make informed decisions with regards to students’ performance as well as to the effectiveness of a particular program. However, measuring performance and learning is always a challenge no matter what the delivery format. It is even more so in the case of CBI programs where the need to assess content and language complicates the instructor’s mission. This duality raises issues concerning what to evaluate within a CBI framework and calls for practical considerations with regards, not only , the “what” of Content Based Assessment (CBA) but also the “how”. These issues should all be considered and factored into the process of selecting, developing, administrating and rating of CBI tests.
This workshop aims at discussing issues of CBI assessment as identified in Brinton et al, 1989. In doing so, it touches on different forms of tests that could inform assessment within a CBI framework, explains and particularly suggests Integrated Performance Assessment (IPA) , developed originally by the American Council on Teaching of Foreign languages (ACTFL) for assessing the progress language students are making in achieving the K-16 standards, as a form of valid and reliable assessment for CBI. It takes in consideration important modifications that are needed to adapt IPA for CBI as explained and proposed by Tedick and Camarata, 2011.
The workshop will provide readymade examples of IPA units and will guide the audience into the step by step process of building such units within their relevant language and content specialization.

  • Iman Aziz Soliman is the CASA Executive Director and an Arabic Language Instructor at the American University in Cairo. She earned her B.A. in English Literature from Ein Shams University. In 2003, she received her Ph.D. in TAFL from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She has been teaching since 1992 at various reputable academic institutions, such as Middlebury College, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of St. Andrews. Dr. Soliman is a recent winner of the AUC Excellence in Teaching Award. She has written a number of Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic courses and workbooks, in addition to co-authoring Kallemni Arabi, an intermediate course in Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Dr. Soliman has extensive experience in curriculum development and has participated in the development of several Arabic language curricula for learners of Arabic as a first language and a foreign language. Currently she is working with the CASA director on redefining and restructuring the CASA curriculum within a CBI framework. She is also co-authoring a series of Arabic literature and language books for CBI. Her academic interests include AFL curriculum development, computer enhanced language learning, community based language learning, and teaching and foreign language program assessment.

Content-Based Education During Study Abroad, including Direct Enrollment: Brigham Young University Students Fall 2011

In their landmark study of 1300 study abroad students, Vande Berg, Connor-Linton, and Paige (2009) found that content courses were a significant predictor of language gains for study abroad students. Brigham Young University has been experimenting with content-based instruction since its first intensive Arabic abroad program in 1989. During fall semester of 2011, 52 BYU students with four semesters of Arabic experience studied intensively at the Qasid Institute in Amman, Jordan using a special curriculum developed by BYU and modified in consultation with Qasid instructors. Students also sat in on a University of Jordan Political Science course twice a week. This presentation will illustrate with video clips and student reflections the results, comparing their experience with other programs, such as Cornell’s Intensive Arabic Program and a student of Hebrew in Jerusalem who is pushing forward with his language learning in a volunteer opportunity. I will also show how many of these students are continuing to refine their language abilities in content-based courses in Utah.

  • Kirk Belnap is professor of Arabic in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University and director of the National Middle East Language Resource Center, a Title VI LRC that brings together language experts from more than twenty universities. He received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. He served as Executive Director of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic from 1994-1999 and currently holds the office of president of the association; he was editor of its journal, Al-‘Arabiyya, from 2000-2005. His research interests include language policy and planning, second language acquisition, and the history of Arabic. He oversees Project Perseverance, his current research focus, which entails: 1) on-line resources in the form of language learners’ success stories (especially those of working professionals), useful brief summaries of relevant research, and training webinars to help students deal with linguistic and culture shock and become effective self-regulating learners who proactively work to accomplish their goals; 2) research with stateside and abroad partners to document the effectiveness of these student training efforts.

Challenges and Implications of Content-Based Language Instruction for the Profession, a case of Persian language

Focusing on experiences gathered for Content-Based Curriculum for Persian Language, this presentation starts by going into what type of material is eligible for “Content Based Instruction”. As CBI involved Context-Based instruction, and real-life situational learning, Authentic Material is an important foundation for any such program. Thus emphasis will be placed on “Authentic Material”, its compilation and to what extend it is permissible to create material. Real samples will be presented and discussed. The challenges for the Curriculum developers who need such material will be discussed as well as some working solutions. Further emphasis in understanding authentic, semi-authentic and artificial content is indicated. Finally, some implications CBI have for the field will be discussed.

  • Ramin Sarraf is currently an Assistant Professor at the National University, in California. He holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics and Persian Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. His areas of research and teaching include: Persian Language, Culture and History, Linguistics, Online Education, Curriculum Design, Curriculum Developing, Lexicography, Phonetics/Phonology, Testing, Textbook Developing.
  • Azita Mokhtari is an Associate Faculty of National University in San Diego. She has received her Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education from the University of Texas, Austin. Her areas of research are related to Persian language and culture, applied linguistics, online education and curriculum design. She is involved on various projects related to materials development, and distance education.

CBI Website for course modules

Introduction to a pilot project to develop content-based language course modules to be used in the instruction of some major Middle East Languages taught in North American institutions of higher education: Arabic, Hebrew, Kurdish, Persian, Turkish. It is a website designed to help university-level language offerings based on various content-areas.

  • K. Pelin Başcı earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Austin in 1995. Before joining the PSU faculty in 1997, she taught at Ankara University, Faculty of Letters, and at the University of Texas-Austin. Professor Basci’s areas of expertise include women and gender in Turkey and the Middle East, and the Turkish novel, specifically issues of identity, gender and nationalism.



The Portland State University Middle East Studies Center with Department of Education Title VI funding | Other member institutions of the Western Consortium of Title VI National Resource Centers for Middle East Studies