Welcome to the year-round STARTALK student program in Chinese, Persian, and Russian at San Diego State University!

Language Acquisition Resource Center (LARC) at San Diego State University (SDSU) is excited to announce that it is hosting its first-ever year-round student Startalk program in three languages: Chinese, Persian (Farsi), and Russian. The program is open to up to 48 highly motivated high-school students (16 per language) in grades 9-11 with no prior knowledge of the language. The program comprises 170 hours of instruction: 30 hours of online instruction January–May 2022, 80 hours of in-person instruction during the four-week summer immersion camp, and 60 hours of hybrid post-summer instruction August 2022–May 2023.

The program uses a thematically organized curriculum and focuses on language learning through authentic texts and resources. Students acquire the language through lessons that are culturally rich and cognitively engaging and through meaningful real-world activities that prepare them to communicate outside the classroom. In addition to being immersed in the language, students also participate in a variety of authentic cultural activities that deepen their understanding and appreciation of the target language cultures.

As part of the program, students are able to take, at no cost, the computerized Oral Proficiency Assessment twice, the gold standard in the assessment of speaking proficiency used by government agencies, companies, and educational institutions. By the end of the program, students are expected to reach the intermediate level of oral proficiency on the ACTFL scale.

Students may earn 8-10 units of undergraduate college credit at the end of the program.

  • Dates: January 2022 - May 2022 (pre-summer program); June 2022 - July 2022 (month-long summer camp); August 2022 - May 2023 (post-summer program)
  • Format: Online (pre-summer program), in person at San Diego State University campus (summer camp), hybrid (post-summer program)
  • Cost: The program is offered for free
  • Graduation: May 2023, San Diego State University campus
  • Sign up to the mailing list to receive updated information about the program
  • View and download the program flyer

Click on the sections below to view more information.

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Please check this page regularly for dates of our webinar info sessions, in-person visits to schools and organizations preparing high school students for college, and webinar sessions. You can also sign up for our mailing list.

Participants must be:
  • High school students in grades 9-11
  • US citizens or residents
  • Available for the entire duration of the program
  • Highly motivated and committed

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Tien-chi Chen

Tien-chi Chen PhotoI once had a chance to share the concept of an ancient Chinese saying with an American friend. The saying can be roughly translated to mean that the greatest virtue has the characteristic of water - where its benefit flows to many but takes no credit for the good that is done. This concept was totally eye-opening to my friend and she said, “How come nobody has ever said anything like this to me before?”

It dawned on me that, as a foreign language teacher, my mission is not just to teach my students the language. What’s more important is to bring in a different perspective for my students and empower them to understand and appreciate the culture that nourishes the language. The students need to know more about the people who speak the language, their logic and underlying messages, and what they value in their society. The students may even be inspired by the wisdom of other cultures that could help them become great leaders, or sail through challenging moments later in life.

By supplementing rigorous language training with cultural perspective, I want to equip and enable my students to communicate effectively with the vast Chinese-speaking population in the world. As a trained linguist from the University of Michigan and a Startalk-trained Chinese instructor, I have taught more than 5 years at a community-based Chinese immersion school and substituted long term at the Bishop’s School and La Jolla Country Day School. I am committed to contributing my expertise and experience to student learning in every way possible at SDSU-LARC STARTALK Student Program.

Hajar Shakhali

My name is Hajar Shakhali. I was born and raised in Iran. I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in foreign language from the University of Alzahra, Tehran/Iran, and a Master of Arts degree in education from SDSU. Teaching is my passion and I have been in the field of teaching and curriculum development and design for the Persian language since 2012.

Since 2014, I have worked with the STARTALK program as a Persian language group leader for the teacher training and student camp programs, and I also developed curriculum for the STARTALK infrastructure program. Additionally, I teach elementary through advanced Persian classes to students through SDSU Project-Go program, the Iranian school of San Diego, and online private tutoring. My goal as an instructor is to create and maintain a safe and productive learning environment for all students.

Furthermore, I believe in a growth mindset teaching approach assuring my students that they all are capable of learning and achieving their educational goals to a high level through collaborating with them, giving them constructive feedback and helping them to see challenges as opportunities to grow their abilities, not as an obstacle to fear and avoid.

Forouzesh Baradaran

forouzesh profile imageForouzesh Baradaran has a degree in mathematics from Iran and extensive experience in implementing world language pedagogy. Forouzesh is a fellow of the California World Language Project (CWLP) and is ACTFL trained. She has been the Persian language group lead at the STARTALK teacher training programs at LARC since 2013 and she also worked as a teacher mentor at the 2021-2022 Persian Focus Startalk Teacher Training program at LARC. As the group lead, she assisted the Persian language group participants with developing thematic lesson plans that include activities in the target language based on respective age group and level. Forouzesh has also worked as the Persian Instructor at the STARTALK Persian student summer camps offered by LARC since 2010. She has taught Persian for beginners for three consecutive years from 2010 and for intermediate to advanced learners for six consecutive years from 2014. In 2019 she taught novice non-heritage students at the LARC SDSU Startalk program. She currently teaches Persian to students of different ages at the Iranian School of San Diego, where she was recognized as the teacher of the year in 2015. She is a published author and her Persian workbook is being used by the Persian school.

Anna Asadov-Ossowska

Anna Asadow-Ossowska photoI am originally from Russia (Siberia), and I grew up speaking two languages: Russian in school  and Polish with my family. Studying languages was always my passion. I earned a dual degree in international business with emphasis in Russia and Central Europe and Russian language from San Diego State University.I worked as an ESL Instructor at Pacific Southwest Community Development Corporation. I provided instruction to residents of low-income apartments, who wished to learn English or improve their English skills for four years.

I teach students (ing-12 Graders) about famous Russian directors and their films in my History of Russian Cinematography classes at San Diego Russian School. I started work at LARC almost 3 years ago. I had a chance to  work as one of the instructors for the intensive Russian language courses in the Project Global Officer program at LARC in 2013(as an assistant) and 2019. Also, I’ve taught  advanced Russian immersion classes both online and in person. To make classes more entertaining and memorable, I often incorporate one of my biggest hobbies – cooking. Making pelmeni and pirozhki with students is always a lot of fun and a great way to get to know them.

Olga Sukhanova

Olya profile photoOlga Sukhanova is a native Russian instructor with more than 10 years of teaching experience who was educated in Russia and the USA with BA and MA in Applied Linguistics. Olga is a professional linguist who believes in flexibility, creativity, and openness. In her opinion, every student is unique, extraordinary, and is able to meet their full potential. She believes that success is a state of mind.

Startalk students may apply for optional undergraduate college credit. The program is the equivalent of two university courses: Startalk classes from spring 2022 to the end of the summer correspond to one course, while the follow-up classes in fall 2022 and spring 2023 correspond to the second course. The program covers $100 per student for each course out of $288 (Persian) and $360 (Chinese and Russian).

student preparing a presentation
students in the computer lab
student playing the sitar
students presenting
two students working together

Point of Contact

Shahnaz Ahmadeian
Nadezda Novakovic
STARTALK Program Directors
Phone: 619-594-0846

Program Flyer


NSA logo

STARTALK is a national project funded by the National Security Agency. STARTALK’s mission is to increase the number of U.S. citizens learning, speaking, and teaching critical-need languages, with programs nationwide for students (K-16) and teachers. startalk.umd.edu