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Critical Language Enhancement

U.S. Fulbright

Nine Tips for Letters of Reference and the Language Evaluation, By Jody Dudderar, Assistant Director, Fulbright U.S. Student Program

August 11, 2009

Letters of Reference/Recommendation

1. You should ideally ask for references from people who have knowledge of your field and the proposed host country and who can speak intelligently about your ability to carry out the proposed project. Recommenders should also comment specifically on the feasibility of your project with the resources available in the country of application, your linguistic and academic or professional preparation to carry out the proposed project, the project’s merit or validity and how well you know and can adapt to the host country’s cultural environment. They are free to comment on any other factors that may be significant to your successful experience abroad. If you are an applicant in the arts, letter writers should discuss your potential for professional growth.

2. You should not use reference letters from university placement services for your Fulbright application; Fulbright recommendation writers must address the specific issues on the Letter of Recommendation form. These issues are specific to the Fulbright Program’s goals. Reference letters addressing them will benefit an application. Letters from a service will be too general and will not add to an application.

3. You should request that your recommenders submit the letter of reference electronically. You must register each reference in the online application by going to Step 5: References/Report. From there, you can register up to three referees and up to two Foreign Language Evaluators. Once registered, the recommender/evaluator will receive an email with login and instructions on how to complete the form. Be sure to:

a) Let your recommender/evaluator(s) know in advance that you are requesting an electronic reference/report.

b) Provide them with a copy or summary of your Statement of Grant Purpose.

c) Remind them that they must print out the PDF version of the reference/evaluation, sign it, and give it to you in the sealed, stamped, self-addressed envelope, which you should provide to them. Once the recommender/evaluator submits the letter electronically, they can still access it to print it out but cannot edit it.

4. As stated above, it is generally best to ask for references from people who have knowledge of your field of study, project and host country. However, you may find it difficult to obtain all three letters of recommendation from people who can fulfill these guidelines. Including references from professors or other field specialists may not always be possible. Although we recommend trying to obtain as many letters as possible from people who meet our guidelines, you can submit a reference letter from anyone that you wish, including supervisors or employees, so long as their recommendation adds to your application.

The Language Evaluation

1. One of the biggest myths about the Fulbright Program is that applicants must be proficient in the host country’s language to even consider applying to a particular country. Although language proficiency can be a factor in competitiveness, you are not ineligible to apply if you lack foreign language proficiency. In general, you should have the necessary language skills to complete the project. Therefore, the onus is on you to design a feasible project.

2. If English is not the official language of your prospective host country, you must submit the Foreign Language Evaluation form. This is true even if:

a) You have no language skills in the host country’s official language (or languages).

b) Your project does not require you use (speak, read, or write) the host country language.

If you have absolutely no language skills in the host country language, indicate this on the Language Evaluation Form and attach a statement outlining what you will do over the course of the next year to obtain a hospitality or survival level of the host country’s language before you would leave on your grant. You would not, in this case, need to have your language skills evaluated. The Fulbright Program’s main goal is to promote mutual understanding between the United States and the host countries, so learning some of the language before going shows a commitment to cultural exchange and demonstrates your sincere interest in learning about the host culture. If you have some knowledge of the host country’s language, you should have your skill level evaluated even if you do not need the language for the project.

3. Foreign language evaluations should come from an instructor in the language. For widely taught languages (Spanish, French and German, for example) you should find a language teacher for an evaluation. For less commonly taught languages, however, you may have an evaluation done by a native speaker of this language. If possible, we recommend obtaining an evaluation from a native speaker who is also a college professor. If that is not feasible, then any native speaker, except a family member, may complete the form. You may find a native speaker, for example, through the host country’s embassy or consulate, cultural center, or international students or faculty on your campus.

4. If your project requires proficiency in multiple foreign languages, you must submit a separate language evaluation for each of the languages required for your project.

5. If you are applying in the Creative and Performing Arts or in the hard sciences you often do not need to speak the host language for your project. In general, the language expectations for these projects are more relaxed than for academic projects. Because of the program’s goal of promoting mutual understanding, however, we recommend that you learn at least a hospitality level of the host language before the grant begins.

Critical Language Enhancement Award

The Critical Language Enhancement Award, also sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is a supplement to the Fulbright Program and is available for students who have been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student grant in a country where a critical need language is spoken. Application for a Critical Language Enhancement Award is made in conjunction with the Fulbright Program application.

The languages available for the Critical Language Enhancement Award are Arabic, Azeri, Bengali, Chinese (Mandarin only), Farsi, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Marathi, Pashto, Punjabi, Russian, Tajik, Turkish, Urdu, and Uzbek. Additional languages may be added and will be listed on the website.

The Critical Language Enhancement Award’s purpose is to cultivate language learning prior to and during the Fulbright grant period and beyond. Ultimately, awardees will achieve a high level of proficiency in a targeted language and will go on to careers or further study which will incorporate the use of this and/or related languages.

In 2010-11, up to 150 Critical Language Enhancement Awards will be available for grantees to pursue in-country training for between three and six months.

For further details, please see Critical Language Enhancement Award.

U.S. Fulbright

Tips for Getting Started, By IIE Staff

March 30, 2009

Developing a strong, feasible and compelling project proposal is the most important aspect of a successful Fulbright application. Your first step should be to familiarize yourself with the program summary for the country to which you wish to apply. Program design varies somewhat from country to country (i.e., some countries encourage applicants to incorporate coursework into a project, while others prefer independent research). Click here to view the participating country summaries. Please ensure that your project design fits the program guidelines for your host country.

It is essential that applicants have adequate formal training for the study or research that they wish to pursue and that their language skills be commensurate with the requirements of their proposed project.

  • Graduating seniors generally will be expected to attend regular university lectures as part of their projects. They should describe the study programs they wish to follow in very specific detail. They should not expect close academic supervision and should be prepared to supplement lectures with an independent research project.
  • Graduate students, as well as advanced degree candidates proposing research for theses and dissertations, will be expected to work independently without close supervision.
  • Ph.D. candidates should indicate when they expect to complete preliminary or comprehensive examinations and whether their project statements have been accepted as dissertation proposals.
  • Creative and Performing Arts candidates should submit projects indicating their reasons for selecting a particular country, the form their work will take and the results they hope to obtain. For more information on preparing applications in these areas and any required supplementary materials, please click here.
Is the Project Feasible?

You must demonstrate that your project and your research strategy are feasible, including its time frame. In mapping out your project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will the culture and politics of the host country impact my work?
  • How do the resources of the host country support my project? Will I have access to the documents/equipment necessary for successful completion of the project?
  • If employing such methodological techniques such as extensive interviewing and the use of questionnaires how will I get/locate subjects? Have I received approval for the questionnaire from the project supervisor?
  • Do I have all of the necessary permissions from local authorities?
  • Is my language ability adequate? If not, how will I accomplish my work? (Eligible applicants should also consider a Critical Language Enhancement Award for additional language training opportunities.)

In other words, if there could be any question regarding the feasibility of your project or your ability to conduct the project, address the issue directly. Enrolled students are urged to consult professors in their major fields and their Fulbright Program Advisers about the feasibility of their proposed projects; at-large applicants should consult qualified persons in their fields.

Master’s Degree Programs

Candidates considering earning a master’s degree must make sure that the country to which they are applying will accept their project. Some countries do not recommend that applicants apply to undertake a degree program for a number of reasons including the impossibility of completing a master’s degree in one academic year or the other Fulbright grant would not cover tuition fees charged. Applicants should review the country summaries to determine whether there are any restrictions in applying to complete a degree program. If you apply for a degree program in a country that does not offer tuition as part of the Fulbright funding package, then these costs must be covered from an alternative source.

If your plan is to complete a master’s or other structured degree program, make sure that you apply for admission to the host university by their deadline. Do not wait for the Fulbright decision to come through; it may be too late to gain admission to your preferred university.

A Brief Note on Host Affiliation

More information on establishing a host affiliation will be available in an upcoming newsletter. Please keep an eye out for this issue. If you are applying for admission to a university, it is not necessary to submit the letter of admission with the application (although this is desirable). You may submit the acceptance letter whenever you receive it, but an award offer would be contingent upon your placement at a university. If you are not planning to matriculate at a university, then a support/affiliation letter must be included with your application. Any support documentation you can obtain from a potential host will help to make your application more competitive and will also demonstrate the feasibility of your proposal.

English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Applications

If you are applying as an ETA, you are not expected to present extensive research plans. Rather, you should describe the following to reviewers:

1. Why would you like to undertake a teaching assistant assignment?

2. What are your qualifications and what experiences do you have which relate to the overseas assignment?

3. How do you expect to benefit from the assignment and how will you use your experience upon returning to the U.S.?

4. What will you do outside the classroom (most ETAs work no more than 20 hours per week. See developing the statement of purpose for ETA grants on the website)?

All host country affiliations for ETAs will be arranged by the Fulbright supervising agency in the host country. ETA applicants should not attempt to arrange their own affiliations.

Writing the Study/Research Project Proposal

The best project proposals begin with good ideas. Start by putting your ideas on paper and listing your goals and objectives. Share your ideas with your Fulbright Program Adviser, your academic adviser and professional colleagues in your field. As you work on your project, consider the following questions, while remembering your audience. Avoid discipline-specific jargon. The individuals reading your proposal prefer that you be direct about the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of the project. In a persuasive manner, address the following:

1. With whom do you propose to work?

2. What do you propose to do? What is exciting, new or unique about your project? What contribution will the project make to the Fulbright Program’s goal of promoting cross-cultural interaction and mutual understanding?

3. When will you carry out your study or research? Include a timeline.

4. Where do you propose to conduct your study or research? Why is it important to go abroad to this specific country to carry out your project?

5. Why do you want to do this project? What is important or significant about it?

6. How will you carry out your work? All students should discuss methodology and goals in their statements.

7. How will this project help further your academic or professional development?

8. What will be the outcome of your study/research? (See Developing The Statement of Proposed Study or Research on the website)

A Bibliography

Since the Project Statement component of the Fulbright application cannot exceed two single-spaced pages, a formal bibliography is not necessary. However, if background data is provided, it is appropriate to briefly cite sources within the two pages.

Project Category for Applications in the Arts

Almost all creative/performing arts projects involve some kind of study or research as well as practical training. Therefore, you need to decide what the primary focus of your project is: academic research or a practical training in the arts. Keep in mind that creative/performing artists must also submit supplementary materials in addition to the written application. If you do not feel that your work to date in the arts is your best, it may be more appropriate to apply using an academic field of study, such as art history, theater studies, etc., in order to have your application reviewed appropriately.

Multi-Country Projects

A multi-country project is a project that must be carried out in more than one country. All countries must be within the same geographic world area. Applicants submitting multi-country proposals must have very good justification for putting forward such a project. Keep in mind that you are doubling or tripling the work involved in securing host institution affiliations, not to mention obtaining visas, finding housing, etc. Also, multi-country proposals recommended by screening committees must be approved by each of the relevant host countries before they can be granted. If one country rejects your project, then your project may not be feasible. Generally, you will be given the option of revising your proposal for the remaining countries which have approved your original project. Currently, multi-country proposals may only be submitted in the Western Hemisphere and in certain countries in Eastern Europe/Eurasia.

A Final Word…

Organize your statement carefully. Don’t make reviewers search for information. We urge you to develop a lead paragraph with all of the salient details – the who, what, when, where, why and how – and have several people read and critique your statement including a faculty adviser, a faculty member outside your discipline, a fellow student and/or a colleague. It would be ideal to have a host country academic or artist review your proposal for refinement and host country issues of sensitivity, security and feasibility.