Students of South Asian Language Programs Enjoy Lasting Benefits, AIIS Survey Shows


AIIS Hindi student Emma Leiken attends the wedding of a friend in Kolkata

The American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), CAORC’s member center in India, supports the study of India through language training programs, fellowships, and two India-based research centers, on ethnomusicology and art & archaeology.

Emma Leiken, now a few months into her job with Google’s People Operations team in San Francisco, reflected on her time as a Fulbright student researcher to India.

“My knowledge of Hindi was crucial to my fieldwork, as it allowed me to connect with my interviewees on a deeper and more authentic level,” she said.

For Emma’s fieldwork in Mumbai, which entailed conducting ethnographic interviews with women from the dalit (“downtrodden,” formerly untouchable) community, this level of authenticity was essential.

The women were part of a mass movement of dalits who followed the example of B.R. Ambedkar, a prominent dalit statesman and architect of the Indian constitution, in converting to Buddhism to escape the prejudices of the Hindu caste system.

As the recipient of a Critical Language Enhancement Award from the U.S. Department of State, Emma began her Fulbright tenure with four months of immersive Hindi language training with the AIIS program in Jaipur.

The language course set the tone for her year in India. “My knowledge of Hindi deepened and enriched every one of the relationships I built during my Fulbright year,” she said.

As the recipient of a Critical Language Enhancement Award from the U.S. Department of State, Emma began her Fulbright tenure with four months of immersive Hindi language training with the AIIS program in Jaipur.

The language course set the tone for her year in India. “My knowledge of Hindi deepened and enriched every one of the relationships I built during my Fulbright year,” she said.

With immersive courses in the advanced study of over fifteen South Asian languages, offered at locations in India where those languages are commonly spoken, AIIS is a world leader in advancing the study of South Asia.

The vast majority of AIIS students credit the program with enhancing their professional marketability, according to a recent survey. In other words, the professional and personal benefits of the program transcend the language classroom.

The AIIS study, which surveyed 174 language program alumni at diverse stages of their careers, traced the long-term benefits of language programs on participants' career trajectories.

While many AIIS students go on to careers in higher education, where the benefits of advanced language training are readily apparent, the survey shed light on the experiences of alumni who have entered the professional world outside academia.

A snapshot of some of the prestigious institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, government, and private companies where AIIS language program alumni find employment.

The responses reflect a body of alumni that is highly educated, employable, and actively engaged in international affairs, South Asian Studies, and community service.

In addition to pursuing careers at institutions of higher education, AIIS alumni work for top companies in the technology, business, and nonprofit sectors; consult for international NGOs and governments; and serve as volunteers in their communities.

As for Emma, though she isn’t required to know Hindi for her job at Google, she understands the importance of cross-cultural communication skills in a global world.

It didn’t take her long to find a fellow Google employee willing to tutor her in Hindi. They now meet regularly to practice the language, discussing a different topic each week.

“I think immersive language training is critical not just for academics or humanities students, but for people across industries,” she said.

“As the world is becoming increasingly globalized, I think familiarity with a second language through immersive training is critical to building understanding across cultures and countries.”

Read the full AIIS interview with Emma.

View the AIIS survey results through interactive infographics.

To find out more about American Overseas Research Centers around the world, see the list of CAORC member centers.

#AIIS #India #Language

Council of American Overseas Research Centers
PO Box 37012, MRC 178

Washington, DC 20013-7012
202.633.1599 main

202.633.3141 fax
info@caorc.org

© COUNCIL OF AMERICAN OVERSEAS RESEARCH CENTERS 2019
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

CONNECT WITH CAORC

  • Facebook Clean
  • Twitter Clean
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • White YouTube Icon