Students win national scholarship to study critical languages

Three Arts & Sciences students have won the highly competitive 2011 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) from the U.S. Department of State, enabling each of them to study abroad at an intensive summer language institute. The winners and their chosen languages are Kate Layton (Arabic), Cornelius “C.J.” Canton (Urdu), and Denise Correll (Mandarin Chinese).

In addition, Elizabeth Clendinning, a doctoral student in the College of Music, has won the CLS to study Indonesian. Clendinning has learned some basic Indonesian without taking formal language classes.

“The entire department is very proud of Kate, C.J., and Denise,” said William Cloonan, the university's Richard Chapple Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics and chairman of the modern languages department, “but I would also like to thank our excellent faculty in Arabic and Chinese. These are two of the hardest languages we offer, and they are always among those with the highest enrollments. This is in large measure a tribute to the professors who teach them.”

This marks at least the third year in a row that FSU students have won the CLS to study Arabic, said Zeina Schlenoff, head of the Arabic division in FSU's modern languages department.

Kate Layton (seated at left in banner photo), who graduates in Spring 2011 with a B.A. in history and minors in Spanish and Arabic, will study Arabic for eight to 10 weeks in the Middle East, tentatively Fes, Morocco. Born in Mexico, Layton spent her childhood in Ecuador and Connecticut, moving to Jupiter, Fla. for high school.

She already speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and French. “I hope to use my Arabic in graduate school researching the relationship between the Middle East and Latin America," Layton said.

C.J. Canton (center), who has won the CLS two years in a row, is a Middle Eastern Studies major planning to study Urdu in Lucknow, India from June 8 to Aug. 22. Canton said it was his summer experience in Oman in 2010 that fueled his desire to study Urdu.

“I found that much of my daily interaction took place not with Arabs but with the non-Arab immigrants who now make up more than a third of Oman’s population,” Canton said. “Most of these come from India and Pakistan, and it was my superb interaction with these fine people, who more often than not helped me and provided me with wonderful camaraderie at no apparent gain to themselves, which made me determined to learn their language and experience their culture.”

Canton, from Lutz, Fla., is majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and intends to add a second major in economics before graduating in Spring 2012. Hoping to become a professor, he would like to go to graduate school for either Arabic or linguistics.

Denise Correll (right) — who will study Mandarin Chinese in Xi’an, China from mid-June to mid-August — graduates in Spring 2011 with dual degrees: one in international affairs and the other in Chinese with a concentration in business. Following her summer language studies, Correll, whose hometown is Jacksonville, Fla., will pursue a master’s degree in contrastive linguistics at Tianjin Foreign Studies University, which is where FSU students stay when they go on the FSU International Programs trip to China.

She sees the summer program in Xi’an as a good way to prepare for her master’s program in Tianjin, which will be taught in Chinese. After that, she is considering a career in the Navy, the State Department, or the Central Intelligence Agency. Her own father had a 30-year career in the Navy, and she herself loves to travel and believes strongly in people becoming global citizens.

“Some people are afraid of losing a portion of themselves if they start to understand another culture, but I don’t think our identity is so finite that we have to take something out before we put something in,” Correll said. “Since I’m half-Filipino, when I’m with some friends in America I’m the Filipino girl, but when I’ve visited cousins in my mom’s hometown in the Philippines, I’m the American girl. Identity is complex, and once people can accept that idea, they can become more open to other cultures.”

While Layton, Canton, and Correll have all been abroad previously, they credit their FSU instructors with giving them the language skills and letters of recommendation necessary to win the prestigious CLS scholarships.

Elizabeth Clendinning, who will study in Malang, Indonesia, for about 10 weeks this summer, is a doctoral student in musicology, with a focus on ethnomusicology. Clendinning, whose hometown is Tallahassee, received a master's degree in ethnomusicology from FSU in 2009 and a bachelor's degree in music (with honors) from the University of Chicago in 2007.

"In my doctoral research, I will be exploring cosmopolitanism and globalism in Balinese music and dance and will be using my newly acquired research skills to interview individuals in the performing arts," Clendinning said. "I am very fortunate right now to be the assistant director of FSU's Balinese gamelan, Sekaa Gong Hanuman Agung, and the associated dance program, and upon graduation, I hope to become a university professor and be able to study and teach about the Indonesian musical arts."

A gamelan is an Indonesian musical ensemble composed mainly of percussion instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums, and gong. Clendinning, who plays all of these instruments to some degree and who also dances with the associated troupe, has learned some basic Indonesian from her dance teacher and from reading.

In addition to instruction, the Critical Languages Scholarship includes travel expenses; an orientation program in Washington, D.C.; room and board in countries where the students are studying; group cultural enrichment activities; and side trips. Begun in 2006, the CLS program originally offered six languages of study. As of 2010, it offered 13 languages: Arabic, Persian, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.