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Teaching Turkish in North America on the Centennial of the Republic

RoundTable VI-5, sponsored byAmerican Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages (AATT), 2023 Annual Meeting

On Friday, November 3 at 4:00 pm

RoundTable Description
As the year 2023 marks the centennial of the Turkish Republic, this panel will bring scholars together to look back at the history of teaching of Turkish in North America and discuss the stages that the field has gone through particularly during the last four decades. Without doubt, the teaching of Turkish and other Turkic languages has its roots way before. It is known that at least since the production of the first comprehensive encyclopaedic dictionary (i.e. the Diwan Lughat al-Turk by Mahmud al-Kashgari, completed in 1074), Turkish has been taught and learned in various settings. Due to the changing demands and needs of the world during the last century, the teaching of Turkish has gained impetus. With respect to the teaching of this language in North America, the foundation of the American Association of Teachers of Turkish in 1985 was a particularly significant turning point. Soon after its establishment, the Cold War ended; and in 1993, the organization changed its name to “the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages” to embrace the other members of the Turkic language family. A more recent major milestone has been the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of which the online and hybrid modes of teaching of Turkish have gained momentum. The papers in this panel will analyze the past and current challenges that our field has encountered, as well as our collective achievements. The panel presenters will also discuss changes in teaching practices, methods, and pedagogies over time. In addition to reflecting on the past, the members of this panel will provide a critical analysis of current issues and identify main priorities for the future. Overall, the papers will present a picture of the development of the teaching of Turkish in the US and in Canada. Such a critical review is crucial for our field to document its progression and provide continuity through experience-sharing.
  • Dr. Gozde Mercan
    This presentation will focus on Turkish language teaching in Canada and specifically, in Toronto. According to the information publicly available on AATT’s website on Turkish language programs in North America, currently, Turkish language courses are offered across the US by 45 universities in 23 different states. In contrast, in Canada, there are only two programs at institutions of higher education that offer Turkish language classes to university students at present. These are the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto in Ontario and the Islamic Studies Institute at McGill University in Quebec. In addition to these courses that have university students as their target audience, there are a number of different venues where Turkish language instruction is offered in Canada. Some such programs are directed toward child or adult heritage speakers of Turkish and some others towards the general public. For instance, the School of Continuing Education of the University of Toronto offers the Turkish language to the community at large, and the Toronto District School Board offers Turkish as part of its International Languages – Elementary program to children from kindergarten to Grade 8. Turkish language teaching in Canada is different from the practice in both Europe and the US due to a number of factors such as the history of Turkish immigration and the size and nature of the Turkish-speaking community. Furthermore, Canada is a country with an explicit policy of multiculturalism and its linguistic diversity is particularly evident in metropolitan Toronto where 42.5% of the residents currently have a mother tongue other than English and French, the country’s two official languages. The present paper will argue that this multilingual setting may influence attitudes towards foreign languages in general and Turkish language teaching practices in particular.
  • This presentation will consider the development of Turkish as a Foreign Language instruction in Institutions of Higher Education in the United States and its intersection with the development of Turkish as a foreign language instruction in Turkish institutions of higher education. My argument will be based on AATTs archival documents, interviews with key figures in the field, and MLA-ACLS research documents. Furthermore, I will consider the efforts of colleagues in Turkey and the U.S. to cooperate, share information and learn from each other effectively whether through conferences such as AATT's Annual Conference, or ones organized in Turkey such as “Language for All” hosted by Cukurova University, and the activities of YADOT (Yabancı Dil Olarak Türkçe Eğitim Derneği) AATTs counterpart in Turkey. Last but not least looking to the future of the field of Turkish language instruction in North America I will discuss the impact of AI translation tools such as Chatgpt on foreign language instruction in general and Turkish in particular.
  • This presentation will provide a thematic overview of the various contexts in which Turkish and Ottoman literatures have been taught at U.S. colleges and universities since the 1950s, when area studies programs came into being to serve national interests that became more global after World War II. It will also describe major trends in the pedagogical approaches employed to teach Turkish and Ottoman literatures, i.e. trends that have accompanied not only discursive developments in literary and cultural theory, but also institutional restructuring in U.S. higher education and shifts in global politics. In addition to interpreting statistical information collected by professional organizations like the Modern Language Association and the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages, the speaker will share the findings of her analysis of a dozen in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted with current and retired educational practitioners in the field. She will argue that the transition from philologically based “Oriental” studies to pragmatics-based area studies neglected the integration of Turkish and Ottoman literary studies into new programs driven by the social sciences, and furthermore, that the instrumentalization of foreign languages to serve nationalist ends – which runs far and deep in American thinking – resulted in a heavy-handed decoupling of language and literature study, to the detriment of both. The consequent lack of investment in the humanities in area studies programs (beyond the discipline of history) has driven the nation’s Turkish and Ottoman language and literature experts into their current, mostly marginalized positions within an array of departments and units. Today’s sporadic course offerings and even well-trained educators’ eclectic approaches to “working” Turkish and Ottoman literatures (in English translation) “into” existing world literature, history, cultural studies, gender studies, and other disciplinary or interdisciplinary course curricula are symptoms of this unfortunate history, as are the dearth of U.S. graduate programs in which students can engage in sequenced coursework focused on Turkish and Ottoman literatures. It is the presenter’s hope that this study will offer several points of departure for revitalizing both the foundational and advanced study of Turkish and Ottoman literatures in North America.
  • Saadet Ebru Ergul
    This introduction will be an all-encompassing exploration of the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages (AATT) and its pivotal role within the realm of Turkic Language education in the US. AATT is positioned as the primary umbrella institution for instructors, students, and academic institutions. Furthermore, I will refer to the work from Roberta Micallef, Boston University, and provide a detailed depiction of the key stakeholders involved, including students, instructors, and educational institutions, while shedding light on the evolving landscape of language education in the United States. Also, I will delve into the enlightening findings from AATT's recent enrollment survey, offering valuable insights into the state of Turkic language education and its future trajectory.