Harvard is hiring a Filipino language teacher for the first time

Harvard Filipino language teacher
The Harvard University Asia Center will be hiring a Filipino language instructor for 3 to 8 years. Photo of the Harvard University Asia Center in the Center for Government and International Studies, South Building from The Harvard Crimson by Julian J. Giordano.

Harvard University has announced the hiring of a Filipino language teacher for a new course offering, the first time such an academic program will be taught in the prestigious American university’s nearly 400 years of history.

The position of “Preceptor in Filipino (Tagalog)” for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the Department of South Asian Studies is expected to be filled by July 1, 2023, or January 1, 2024, at the latest. The Filipino language instructor will be tasked to teach five Filipino (Tagalog) language courses per year for three to eight years.

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The upcoming course on the Philippines’ major language, Tagalog, one of the most spoken languages in the United States, was reported by the university’s student publication, The Harvard Crimson, as one of the goals of the Harvard Philippine Forum which has petitioned Harvard administrators to offer courses in Tagalog. In 2021, Eleanor V. Wikstrom, the co-president of the Forum and a Crimson Editorial chair, wrote an opinion piece about Harvard’s lack of Tagalog language offerings.

In another op-ed piece by Wikstrom published on March 24, the same day the Tagalog language offering was reported, the editorial chair recalls seeing the job hiring announcement in her email in February this year – a cause of elation at seeing her mother’s heritage language finally offered as a Harvard course, but also as a move to be seen with caution because of Harvard University’s role in suppressing the same language studies in the public educational system set up by the Americans when they invaded the Philippine islands during the World War.

“We’re working against a historical memory that is actively erasing the understanding of the importance of the Filipino-American relationship,” Wikstrom said.

HPF Co-President Marcky C. Antonio added that the Tagalog course offering at Harvard was “a big win for the Filipino community back home” that he hopes will lead to more academic exchanges between Harvard and the Philippines.

“While this is the first Tagalog language course that’s ever been offered in Harvard’s history, I think there’s also this sense that we need to make sure we teach this right — not only Tagalog language, but Filipino culture as a whole,” Antonio said.

Wikstrom and Antonio pledged to pursue more Filipino representation at Harvard. “We have further responsibility to push this now that we know that this is possible,” Wikstrom said. “So we’re not going to stop at Tagalog.”

Harvard University Asia Center Executive Director Elizabeth K. Liao was also reported by The Harvard Crimson publication to have welcomed the Filipino language teaching as “a game-changer in terms of the Asia Center’s long-term mission to build Southeast Asian studies at Harvard, as well as the university’s engagement with the region”.

Asia Center director James Robson said they have been working to increase Southeast Asian education at Harvard for over two years.

“What I’m hoping is that if we can demonstrate that there’s demand for these languages and students show up and are excited about it, then hopefully we can also use this to convince the administration to further support Southeast Asian studies generally and language instruction in particular,” Robson said.

Asia Center associate director for Southeast Asia Programs Jorge Espada added that they conducted a survey at Harvard and found a lack of Southeast Asian studies and language course offerings.

“Most Southeast Asian languages are taught as part of a tutorial format within the Department of South Asian Studies,” Espada said. “We wanted to see if we could have these languages taught by a preceptor-level position to professionalize the instruction, to make it more consistent, and to generate enthusiasm for it at Harvard.”

The Filipino (Tagalog) academic position requires the following qualifications:

  • Native or near-native fluency in Filipino (Tagalog). Demonstrated strong commitment to teaching Filipino (Tagalog) at all levels.
  • Advanced graduate training in Filipino (Tagalog) language, literature, and culture, or a strong graduate record in another area connected to the study of the Philippines, or Southeast Asia.

Applicants are asked to submit the following materials through the ARIeS portal:

  1. Cover letter, including a description of teaching/advising experience and philosophy and comments on any efforts to encourage diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
  2. Curriculum Vitae
  3. Names and contact information of three referees, who will be asked by a system-generated email to upload a letter of recommendation once the candidate’s application has been submitted. Three letters of recommendation are required, and the application is considered complete only when at least three letters have been received.
  4. Candidates are encouraged to apply by April 14th, 2023.

Filipino language and culture courses have previously been offered at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and the schools of Alberta in Canada.

SEND CONGRATULATIONS in the comments below to the movers for the inclusion of Filipino language courses at Harvard University!

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