By Nicholas Seay
Nicholas Seay, a second-year PhD Student in the Department of History spent two months this summer learning Tajik through the American Councils Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP). The ERLP program provides high-quality language instruction and specially designed cultural programming for students studying the languages of Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova. Languages available to study include Armenian, Azerbaijani, Turkish, Georgian, Chechen, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Romanian, Bashkir, Buryat, Tatar, Yakut, Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik), Pashto, Uzbek, and Ukrainian.
While the COVID-19 pandemic led American Councils to cancel in-person language learning programs, the majority of classes were still offered online. “The ability to continue to work towards the language skills necessary for my research while ensuring that students, staff, and instructors had the opportunity to work safely during the pandemic made this a unique opportunity. I am very happy to see American Councils working so hard to ensure that all programs are carried out safely,” Nicholas explained. In both Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 American Councils programming will continue to operate online.
Nicholas first traveled to Tajikistan in 2017 as part of the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship program for the study of Persian. Iranian Persian (sometimes called Farsi) and Tajik Persian are closely related. While Iranian Persian served as Nicholas’ initial encounter with Persian, his research interests in the history of cotton production in Soviet Tajikistan have led him to redirect his focus towards Tajik. As Nicholas described, “One advantage of studying with ERLP was the ability to study the specifics of the Tajik language and begin to understand regional dialects within Tajikistan.”
In the future, Nicholas hopes to combine his Russian and Tajik language skills in archival and oral history work in Russia and Tajikistan. His summer online studies were partially funded by support from the History Department at Ohio State and with the support of a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education. Nicholas will be hosting a virtual information session on October 5th at 3:00 PM for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students interested in pursuing similar opportunities with American Councils ERLP and related programs. To RSVP for this information session, follow the link here.