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Camp teaches Hindi language, Indian culture, more

5/1/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

The StarTalk Ohio Hindi Camp will begin each day with a yoga session.
Photo courtesy of Kiran Khaitan
NORTH AKRON — Children ages 9 to 14 are being invited to attend a free Hindi language and Indian culture summer camp sponsored by the StarTalk program.

StarTalk is part of the National Security Language Initiative created by former President George Bush in January 2006, according to its website. The initiative seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not now widely taught in the U.S.

According to the website, the StarTalk program’s mission is to increase the number of Americans learning, speaking and teaching critical-need foreign languages by offering students and teachers creative and engaging summer experiences.

The Ohio Hindi Camp, funded by a federal grant as part of the National Language Security Initiative, will be offered July 14 through Aug. 1, Mondays through Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Jennings Community Learning Center, 227 E. Tallmadge Ave.

Kiran Khaitan, Hindi Camp program director, is a jeweler by trade and leads a class on Sundays offered at The University of Akron to teach participants about the Indian language and culture. She said this is the second year for the camp program.

Khaitan said StarTalk, which has done a lot of research on this, incorporates fun activities to make learning easier.

“The main objective of this camp is to teach the language and adding the culture of India helps children retain more,” she said. “We use mini-programs developed with help from language experts from Princeton University, a curriculum specialist from Columbia University and a team leader from New York University.”

Khaitan added these experts created a teaching model for teachers on how to deliver the program.

Khaitan said she hopes to attract students with and without an Indian heritage to the camp.

Participants in the camp will explore the customs and foods of various regions of India and immerse themselves in the Hindi language, which is the official language of India and is the second most spoken language in the world, according to camp organizers. Students also will learn about India’s culture through arts, crafts, dance, food, music and sports of the various regions.

The daily classes will begin with instructions for yoga and include lunch and an authentic Indian snack, according to camp organizers.

“Last year, the kids really loved the food and sports part of the program, and they enjoyed the music and dancing and the yoga,” said Khaitan. “They were able to start speaking simple conversations after the program. This camp is a great way to learn a language, and students can earn school credit.”

Indian sports explored through the camp include kho kho, a tag team sport.

Some of the foods include: chana bhatura, a combination of chole (spicy chick peas) and a fried bread made of whole wheat flour; and daal baati, a popular dish comprising dal (lentils) and baati (hard wheat rolls).

The week of camp will end with a “recital” for parents and teachers to showcase what students have learned. 

“Eventually, I hope to bring this kind of program into public schools, and StarTalk is in the process of creating a certification program for teachers for this,” said Khaitan. “India is a huge market in the world, and a lot of companies need employees who know the language and culture to be more successful.”

The camp has a $100 fee due with registration that is completely refundable upon successful completion of the camp, according to Khaitan.

Registration is open until May 31, but space is limited to 50 students. Registration and other forms are available at hindi-indianculturecamp.com/.

For more information, visit the website or contact Khaitan at 330-630-1103.

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