About the Author: Melvin W. Hall serves in the Youth Programs Division of the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Recent conflicts around the world, highly publicized by the media with vivid images, urgent tones, and non-stop coverage, serve as a reminder of the "Great Game." It is the term used to describe the struggle that takes place between states, nations, political groups, and national leaders for power and influence. And the drama of the Great Game tends to exacerbate and reinforce the surface differences between cultures, nations, and governments. A foil to the Great Game is the "Quiet Game," which Djavad Salehi-Isfahani recently described as the "everyday game of life where families get up in the morning, have plans for themselves, [and] for their children." It is the Quiet Game, because we seldom hear about the family life of people from around the world, their individual interactions, their hopes and conversations about the future, and the reasons and circumstances which compel them to make decisions about their lives. And when we engage in the Quiet Game with people from around the world, we take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to learn about their individual aspirations and dreams for their families and children.
The Quiet Game, however, is not made available to us in the same way the Great Game is made available. Engaging in the Quiet Game with our counterparts from around the world requires commitment -- commitment to seek out cross-cultural encounters, commitment to learn someone else’s language, and commitment to live for an extended period of time in another culture. The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) gives committed American young people the opportunity to be full participants in the Quiet Game -- to sit down at the dinner table with their international peers and participate in their discussions and daily lives.
NSLI-Y, a Department of State funded program, provides full-scholarships for American youth ages 15 to 18 to learn Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Turkish in summer, semester, and academic-year overseas immersion programs. NSLI-Y programs immerse students in the language and culture of the host country through formal education and daily interaction with host country counterparts (families and communities). While participating in a rigorous program of language study, it is expected that most NSLI-Y participants will live with host families. In addition, community service projects will be an important part of the language curriculum. Participants will interact with their host country peers to complete various community service projects in their language of study, such as working in orphanages, promoting environmental awareness, and developing youth programs. In essence, NSLI-Y language programs are a springboard to a lifetime of language use and participating with people from around the world in the Quiet Game of their everyday lives.
NSLI-Y is a wonderful opportunity for all American youth who have an interest in languages and a desire to experience other cultures firsthand in a learning environment. The deadline for 2009 and 2010 applications is February 2, 2009.
Join the NSLI-Y Group at Exchanges Connect, an international social network, to meet past participants of NSLI-Y language programs, ask questions about NSLI-Y programs, and take part in on-line discussions about language learning.
You may apply for the program through the American Councils.