Category: Grants Awarded

ILETC receives U.S. Department of Education grant for their Language Placement for Equitable Learning (LaPEL) project!

We’re delighted to announce that the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context, (ILETC) at the CUNY Graduate Center and the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at CUNY John Jay College of the City University of New York have secured a U.S. Department of Education IFLE (International and Foreign Language Education) grant for their Language Placement for Equitable Learning (LaPEL) project! 

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U.S. Department of Education Grant to the Graduate Center Will Help CUNY’s Bilingual Students

More than 86,000 CUNY undergraduates — 38 percent of CUNY’s nearly 230,000 undergraduates — speak a native language other than English. Many of them stand to benefit from a recent U.S. Department of Education grant of $169,450 to the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context (ILETC) at The Graduate Center. ILETC is using the funding to launch an initiative to enhance language education for bilingual college students.

The grant-funded project, called Investigating Pedagogies for Advanced Proficiency (IPAP), will initially focus on students who immigrated from Spanish-speaking countries, or whose parents did, and who speak Spanish at home, but were educated in English in the U.S. As a result, the students’ dominant language is English, while Spanish remains their home language. IPAP will analyze and develop effective strategies for teaching college-level Spanish courses to bilingual students so that they become proficient in reading and writing in Spanish as well as speaking it. In its third year, IPAP will focus on learners who are bilingual in Japanese and English. Read more

ILETC Receives U.S. Department of Education Grant!

October 13th, 2020

We are pleased to announce that the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context (ILETC) at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, has been awarded a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s International Research and Studies program.

The $169,450 grant will fund the Investigating Pedagogies for Advanced Proficiency (IPAP) project. With the aim to better serve heritage language learners enrolled in college-level language courses, the IPAP project will deliver new knowledge on: how different pedagogical approaches support proficiency development in heritage language learners; how proficiency in English relates to proficiency in the heritage language; and what language-using patterns look like in advanced Read more

ILETC Receives NEH CARES Grant!

The Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context (ILETC) at the Graduate Center, City University of New York,  has been awarded an NEH CARES (National Endowment for the Humanities Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) grant , one of four such grants awarded to CUNY and one of only 317 projects out of 2,300 applicants, nationwide .

This grant of more than $42,000 will allow ILETC to fund its position for Assistant Director, Syelle Graves. The funds are critical to ILETC’s mission to promote education in world languages and literatures across CUNY and in the context of New York City’s multilingual communities. The grant will allow ILETC to conduct research; develop materials that are published as open educational resources; and offer professional development activities, including training 50 CUNY faculty in teaching languages online. Read more

ILE Grant Projects & Recipient Profiles (2014-2015)

A Multilingual Instructional Intervention to Promote Academic English Proficiency

Brief Description

This project proposes to build the heritage language, or native language, skills of speakers of a less-commonly-taught language: Bengali. Bangladeshi Americans belong to one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in New York City. In 2013, there were 440 students from Bangladesh attending LaGuardia Community College, making up 2.7% of the total student body, and in 2011, 11.5% of our English as a Second Language (ESL) students were Bengali speakers. A vast majority, however, struggles with the dual challenge of acquiring literacy skills as they develop proficiency in English. Our project, the first of its kind at LaGuardia, will implement a multilingual instructional intervention with a sample of Bengali-speaking students. If successful, this intervention can be replicated economically with other language groups, using an array of instructional staff, tutors, and academic supports to provide the L1 components. This project will also help to retain students at LaGuardia Community College. Unfortunately many students begin taking ESL, but if they fail their courses and must repeat a class multiple times, they are likely to drop out. Students who succeed in our ESL courses go on to succeed at LaGuardia and raise graduation rates.

Dr. Ruhma Choudhury is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education and Language Acquisition at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY. Her doctorate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is from Teachers College, Columbia University. She received her MA in English Literature from Dhaka University, Bangladesh and MA in TESOL from California State University, Hayward. She has taught a range of courses, including ESL, EFL, academic writing, linguistics, teaching methodology, and writing. Her research interests include language policy, teacher education, and critical approaches to language learning. Her most recent publication, “Raising Bilingual and Bicultural Bangladeshi-American Children in New York City: Perspectives from Educators and parents in a Bengali Community Program,” appeared in Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism – Beyond Heritage Languages in a Global City (2012), co-edited by Ofelia Garcia, Zeena Zakahria, and Bahar Otcu.

Leigh Garrison-Fletcher is an Assistant Professor of ESL and Linguistics in the Department of Education and Language Acquisition at LaGuardia Community College, the City University of New York. She received her PhD in Linguistics from the Graduate Center, the City University of New York, where she focused on second language acquisition. Her research interests include the role of the native language in second language learning, the acquisition of second language literacy, and the assessment of bilingual students.

Assessment and Placement of Heritage Language Learners of Spanish at the College Level

Brief Description

The present proposal is part of an ongoing investigation that attempts to address and understand the needs of heritage language learners of Spanish at Lehman College. Our objective is to fulfill our language program goals and objectives by making sure our students are placed in the adequate class according to the skills and level of proficiency that they bring to the classroom. Given that the test that we currently have at Lehman is used to place both L2 and heritage language (HL) learners, we decided to start our project by treating both groups of students separately. To identify to what track every student belongs, we developed a pre-test demographic survey that will serve to distinguish HL from L2 students and thus send each group into the appropriate testing scenario. After an evaluation of the L2 placement examinations currently implemented by institutions that have similar profiles as Lehman, we decided to adopt the computerized Web-CAPE placement test developed by Brigham Young University. Once the preliminary test is ready, the next step will be piloting (trial run) and norming (establishment of cutoff points for each level). An unpaired-sample T-test will be run to find out if the test discriminates between L2 and SHL learners. At the end of this process, we plan to have a test ready to be fully implemented among our HL learners by the Spring of 2015. As with the new L2 placement test, during the first year, the results of the exam will be monitored to find out if students are being placed adequately. Modifications will be made accordingly.

Evelyn Durán Urrea is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Languages and Literatures at Lehman College, CUNY. She completed her master’s degree in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Arizona. She then completed her Ph.D. coursework in Hispanic Linguistics in the University of New Mexico until she moved to Penn State to continue her dissertation research on Spanish-English code-switching. Her research interests are varied. The phenomena of language contact in U.S. Spanish are the heart of her research. She has studied the syntactic and discursive forms that emerge among bilinguals in spoken language and her most recent research has focused on bilingualism and identity.


Beatriz Lado is an Assistant Professor at Lehman College (CUNY), where she directs the Linguistics Program and teaches Spanish, including Spanish for native speakers, and linguistics courses. She also teaches SLA courses in CUNY’s Graduate Center and has extensive experience directing language programs and training language teachers. Lado is interested in the interaction between pedagogical conditions and individual differences in bi/multilingual acquisition, and in bridging the gap between research and teaching. Her publications have appeared in journals such as Language LearningForeign Language Annals, and Language Teaching Research. Recently, she co-edited (with C. Sanz) Individual Differences, L2 Development, & Language Program Administration: From Theory to Practice (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning).

Teaching Italian to Spanish Speakers: Theory and Practice in the Classroom

Brief Description

According to data gathered in 2010, there are over 66,000 Hispanic students enrolled at CUNY. Enrollment for this group has increased by approximately 28% in the last two years. Most of these students speak Spanish as their native or heritage language and many of them take classes in Italian, French, or Portuguese, languages which they perceive to be easier to acquire than others due to their similarities with Spanish. This project aims at developing teaching strategies, methodologies, and concrete pedagogical material specifically targeted to Spanish heritage-speakers learning what is probably the closest to Spanish amongst all the Romance languages, although less commonly taught than the others: Italian. When this material is created, it will allow students to progress faster through the language levels, creating tracks that will be particularly attractive to Spanish-speaking learners, which might result in a higher number of students enrolling in Italian classes. For the experimental part, I will create and implement an assessment tool to measure and evaluate the passive competence of Italian on the part of students who have no previous knowledge of this language, but are heritage speakers of Spanish. For the practical part, I will work on the creation of a special curriculum for Spanish-speaking learners of Italian who have no previous knowledge of this language (level A1). I will also produce a set of activities tailored to the level A1 of Spanish-speakers that will constitute a repertoire of pedagogical material available to all the instructors of Italian across CUNY. Finally, once the project is completed, I plan to organize specific workshops on teaching Italian to Spanish-speaking students, in order to train other faculty members who work with a student population with a similar linguistic profile.

Elena Borelli is Assistant Professor of Italian at Bronx Community College, CUNY. She received her Ph.D. in Italian Literature from Rutgers University, and she also holds a Master’s degree in Language Acquisition from the university of Venice Ca’ Foscari, Italy. Her research focuses on the Italian literature of the fin de siècle, with a focus on nationalism and intellectual history. She has recently edited a collection of essays devoted to the theme of desire in modern and contemporary Italian literature, which is in print with Cambridge Scholars Publishers. She has also an interest in second language acquisition, and in particular the teaching of Italian to Anglophone learners.

Advantage or Disadvantage: Exploring the Linguistic Challenges of Brazilian Portuguese Language Acquisitions with Spanish Speakers

Brief Description

As Brazil’s global position as an emerging power solidifies, the demand in diverse sectors for Portuguese speakers continues to expand. Since Bronx Community College introduced Portuguese language study in 2008, several pedagogical challenges have arisen in the classroom. Curiously, almost all students that enroll in our Portuguese classes are native or heritage-Spanish speakers. It is common for many Spanish speakers to perceive the learning of Portuguese to be an easy task due to the assumed similarities in the two languages. However, Spanish fluency does not necessarily provide an advantage in the acquisition of Portuguese. The main objective of this study is to highlight, and better understand, the bi-directional language advantages and interferences posed during the language acquisition process. That Portuguese is remarkably similar to Spanish presents a unique set of advantages and challenges to students and instructors alike. This study will focus on Brazilian Portuguese, which remains the most studied dialect in the United States and the Americas, and provide an awareness of these differences, which often surprise Spanish speakers learning Portuguese, who are misled by the idea of two very similar languages. One factor, for instance, can be attributed to the difference in the number of vowels of the two languages. For many centuries, Spanish has been characterized by system of five stable vowels, whereas Portuguese has a system of twelve unstable vowels, namely vowels that change in quality. Changes in vowel quality permeate spoken Portuguese and this instability has characterized the language throughout its evolution. This project will present an overview of the subject, a summary of specific areas of grammar that can be particularly troublesome to heritage speakers of Spanish, and a review of the pedagogical challenges faced in the classroom. It will examine the considerations for those teaching Brazilian Portuguese to Spanish speakers and look at grammatical and phonetic differences between the two languages, particularly those that are identified as the area learners experience the most confusion. It will also offer theories, techniques, recommendations, and data to help identify how to maximize positive transfer of language acquisition, and minimize negative transfer of Spanish in the acquisition of Brazilian Portuguese.

Alexander Lamazares is Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese, Portuguese Language Coordinator, and Deputy Chair of the Department of Modern Languages at Bronx Community College. He received his M.A. from the University of Chicago, and his doctorate from the University at Albany, SUNY. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for Humanities fellowship, which was based in Brazil. His current research looks at contemporary Brazilian visual culture, with a focus on São Paulo as an urban space of modernity. He is also interested in second language acquisition, with a focus on Portuguese instruction to Spanish heritage speakers.

The Learning and Teaching of Spanish as a Heritage Language in New York City

Brief Description

In the last few decades, research on foreign language teaching and learning has focused on the specific needs of heritage language (HL) speakers in the United States. Whilst some have asserted that well-implemented differentiation strategies may be enough to support these learners and provide them with the opportunity to improve their language skills in a “traditional” FL classroom, others have called for the creation of language classes exclusively designed for the HL population. The proposed study responds to the need to continue improving HL teaching and learning in our respective institutions. Specifically, one of the main goals of the project is to enhance the study of Spanish as a HL at CSI. Despite having a large Hispanic and Spanish-speaking population, CSI’s Spanish for heritage speakers sequence of courses has been dormant for quite some time. Students are usually placed in courses designed for non-native speakers of the language, which leads to a number of challenges. Moreover, given the usual time and curricular constraints, it is very difficult for instructors to really tap into these students’ language abilities. It is our hope that, by rethinking how these courses geared towards heritage Spanish speakers are designed and by making the learning process more pertinent and meaningful for these learners, the process of learning (or relearning) their HL will lead to more successful linguistic gains. The second goal of the proposed project is to better prepare future teachers of Spanish at CSI and CCNY to work with heritage populations in public schools, community centers, and non-profit organizations. The central focus of the project will be to infuse Community Service-Learning (CSL) into the Spanish for heritage speakers courses at CSI and into the Secondary Spanish Education programs at CSI and CCNY. CSL, as defined by Barbara Jacoby, is “a form of experiential education that engages students in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.” This type of hands-on pedagogy provides students the opportunity to reflect on their involvement in their service, facilitating a deeper understanding academic content and community awareness.

Edwin A. Lamboy (B.A. – University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, M.Ed. – Lehman College, Ph.D. – Penn State University) is the Secondary Spanish Education Program Director and Chair of the Secondary Education Department at the City College of New York, where he teaches education and Spanish linguistics courses. Dr. Lamboy has published several articles on Caribbean Spanish and the teaching of Spanish to heritage speakers, and has published three books: Caribbean Spanish in the Metropolis (Routledge, 2004), Temas (Thomson Learning, 2006), and Spanish in Bilingual and Multilingual Settings around the World (Brill, 2012).


Francisco Salgado-Robles (B.A., English Philology, Universidad de Sevilla; M.A.T, TEFL, Universidad de Extremadura; M.Ed., Bilingual Education, Universidad Pablo de Olavide; M.A., Spanish Applied Linguistics, University of Missouri; Ph.D., Hispanic Linguistics, University of Florida) is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at the College of Staten Island – The City University of New York.

His research resides at the intersection of Second Language and Bilingual Acquisition, and Sociolinguistics. He primarily examines how second and heritage language learners develop ‘sociolinguistic competence’ in different learning environments (e.g., classroom, study abroad, and service learning environments), i.e., the sensitivity to the context where language is used, including the sensitivity to differences in local geographical dialect, the sensitivity to differences in register, or, among others, the sensitivity to speaking in a native-like or natural way. This allows him to evaluate relationships between study setting, language use, and language gains.

Dr. Salgado-Robles has presented his research at national and international conferences. His work has been published in several specialized journals, including Revista InterlingüísticaRevista de HumanidadesRelingüística AplicadaRevista de Estudios HispánicosBoletín de Filología de la Universidad de Chile, and Revista de Estudios de Lingüística Aplicada.

Engaging Understudied Languages through a Science-Core Linguistics Class

Brief Description

For many students, their first exposure to endangered languages and heritage languages comes through an introductory linguistics class. This experience is both intellectually enlightening and personally empowering. For example, students who speak creole languages may find their linguistic background marginalized in some disciplines, but in a linguistics class, it is treated as an asset—a repository of information about the human mind. We propose to implement a new design of the course Analyzing Language that incorporates endangered and understudied languages into the core of the curriculum and promotes student engagement through an original research project. The new course design offers students a unique opportunity to engage with a large number of languages; in-class activities, homework assignments, and exam problems feature languages from different families and geographical regions. The course culminates in a semester-long “Adopt-a-Language” fieldwork project, in which each student gathers and analyzes data from a language of his or her choice. Students will publish their research findings in a shared class database hosted by Blackboard’s wiki tool. Analyzing Language fulfills the Pathways Scientific World Core requirement, so students in a variety of majors will have access to the course. This project, the redesign of the curriculum, and implementation of a new fieldwork component will increase student mastery of the core scientific and linguistic concepts of the course; it will also foster student engagement with the global language endangerment crisis and support retention efforts for speakers of understudied languages by treating their linguistic expertise as an academic resource.

Ignacio Montoya is a Ph.D. student in the Linguistics Program at the Graduate Center. His academic interests include phonology and morphology, cognitive approaches to syntax and semantics, and historical linguistics; his work has involved research in Romance and Semitic languages. In addition to the linguistics courses he has taught, Ignacio has served as the MAGNET coordinator of the CUNY Pipeline Program, which supports underrepresented undergraduates who are interested in graduate school. Prior to starting his doctoral work, he taught elementary and middle school in New York and Los Angeles.


Teresa O’Neill is a PhD candidate in the Linguistics Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, and an adjunct lecturer at Queens College. Her research focuses on theoretical syntax; her dissertation project examines the structure of different types of clauses that lack lexical (content) verbs, in order to discover the fundamental properties of the sentence. She is also interested in language revitalization and endangered language documentation. Teresa has extensive experience developing and teaching courses on a variety of topics in linguistics, including syntax, language typology, endangered and understudied languages, phonology, and sociolinguistics.

ILE Grant Projects & Recipient Profiles (2016-2017)

ILETC is proud to support the following researchers and projects with Innovation in Language Education grants in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Microlearning Based Mobile Game for Mandarin Learning and Assessment

Brief Description

While Mandarin is considered a difficult language, it is also one of the most popular foreign languages in the world. Therefore, how to reduce the difficulty of learning, stimulate students’ learning motivation and keep their learning enthusiasm are major challenges to the language instructors. There is also a severe lack supplementary teaching materials to teach Mandarin. In addition, many CUNY students have part-time or full-time jobs, which prevent students from allocating adequate time to complete assignments out of the classroom. In order to tackle these challenges, we have designed a mobile game (Android and iOS) as supplementary learning tool. The mobile game adopts Microlearning concept, which deals with small learning topics and short-term learning activities. Students can play the games at any time in any location. The instructor can easily add any learning content as needed according to the textbook. Even most of the games in the app can be played out of the class; the instructor can trace how often the student used it and what the results are. In this project, we will pilot the game and conduct experiment in two sections of CHI 105, the Mandarin beginning course, taught by same instructor. To access the learning efficacy, we will evaluate students’ learning through four quizzes and two exams through the semester. The experiment results will be very useful for the game improvement. The game can be also applied to other foreign languages with little effort.


Dr. Ling Luo 
is an Assistant Professor in Modern Languages Department of BMCC of CUNY. After received her PhD degree from Nanjing University in China, she came to New York and became a research fellow at East Asian Institute of Columbia University. Her interests include comparative cultures, Chinese cultural history and language acquisition using technologies. Her book “Modernization of Nanjing City” was collected by Harvard University library, Columbia University Library, Stanford University Library and Congress Library. Currently, Dr. Luo focuses on the research in Microlearning-based language acquisition and assessment.




Dr. Maria Enrico is currently Professor and Chair of the Modern Languages Department at Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY. Previously, she was cultural attaché at the Consulate General of the Republic of San Marino, executive director of The American University of Rome, and Director of the Modern Language Program at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.



Dr. Hao Tang
 is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at CUNY and a senior researcher at City College Visual Computing Research Laboratory. His research interests are in the fields of 3D computer vision, image understanding, and their applications in assistive technology and educational technology. He is the recipient of summer research award (2015) and the follow-on research award (2016), both from Department of Homeland Security. His research paper in transducing 3D content for the visually impaired was selected as a finalist for the best paper award in International Conference on Multimedia and Expo, one of the most prestigious conferences in Multimedia and Computer Vision.



Phonological Advances of Heritage Language Learners of Japanese and their Pedagogical Implications

Brief Description

This project examines phonological and syntactic advantages of heritage language (HL) speakers of Japanese over learners of Japanese as a second language (L2). The goal is to substantiate earlier findings on phonological advantages of HL learners over L2 learners of Spanish and Korean (Au et al., 2002; Oh, Knightly, & Au, 2003). These studies have found that HL learners benefit from a statistically significant advantage in phonological knowledge over L2 learners but are on par in syntactic (grammar) knowledge by looking at the acquisition of phonological and syntactic features in Japanese by HL and L2 learners, including the production of moraic nasal sound and phonemic long vowels and the interpretation of long-distance reflexivizations and gap-less relative clauses.  The findings of this study will serve as theoretical justification for using different instructional approaches and assessment criteria for HL learners of Japanese.


Dr. Tomonori Nagano
 is an Associate Professor of Japanese and Linguistics. He received his Ph.D. and M.Phil. in Linguistics from the CUNY Graduate Center and his MA in TESOL from New York University. His research interests are second language acquisition and Japanese as a heritage language. Dr. Nagano taught Japanese at various institutions, including Queens College of CUNY and he is a certified ACTFL OPI Tester in Japanese. See here for a list of his publications and grants.



Ai Mizoguchi
 is an adjunct Japanese language lecturer at LaGuardia Community College. She holds an MA in Applied Linguistics from Teachers College, Columbia University and is working on her Ph.D. in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interest is in the second language learners’ speech.




Yongjun Choi received his M.A. in comparative linguistics in Korean and Japanese languages from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He lived in Japan from 2001-2011 and taught  Korean language at private language schools in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo. He is currently an adjunct Korean/Japanese language instructor at LaGuardia Community College, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and New York University. He also works at Columbia University as a teaching associate. He has taught a wide range of Korean/Japanese levels, ranging from beginner to early-advanced.



Mieko Sperbeck is an assistant adjunct professor at John Jay College and an adjunct professor at Adelphi University. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research focuses on the acquisition of second language speech and Japanese linguistics, including several projects on English and Japanese vowels.



Reshaping language interpreting pedagogy through students’ self-perception of their role as ad hoc interpreters

Brief Description

This study aims to contribute to the enhancement of Spanish-language interpreting pedagogy. It analyzes students’ understanding of their own roles as ad hoc interpreters for their families and communities prior and during their participation in interpreting training programs. Based on empirical data from surveys and narratives, it aims to assess how curricular designs and training methods can be better oriented to respond to the backgrounds, expectations, and needs of students with informal interpreting experience. By doing so, formative experiences will become more meaningful and less stressful, attrition rates will decrease, and communities will benefit from well-rounded language professionals to satisfy their multilingual communication needs.


Aída Martínez-Gómez (Ph.D. Translation Studies, University of Alicante, Spain) is an Assistant Professor of Legal Translation and Interpreting in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her research focuses on non-professional interpreters, language access in prison settings, and interpreting quality and pedagogy. Her work has been published in several specialized journals, such as Interpreting and Perspectives: Studies in Translatology.