Online Cafes for Heritage Learners of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Samoan

    The virtual equivalent of the neighborhood coffee house, the on-line cafe is a place for people to gather for conversation and social interaction. The UH NFLRC has been developing a prototype on-line cafe for language learning for several years. This distance education project will enable heritage students of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Samoan to come together on line with students having similar profiles at distant locations.

    On-line cafes will be created in three target heritage languages using BRIX courseware, a dynamic Web courseware system featuring a 3-tier client/server model using on-line database connectivity and employing widely available Web technologies including client-side scripting and streaming media. Members of each cafe will dialogue on line with peers and facilitators (instructors) in a learning community via forums or threaded discussions. The cafes will feature a social area for free chat, a discussion area for instructor-guided interaction, a grammar clinic for focus on form, and a gallery for sharing pictures of school and community as well as other graphics. The three heritage caf?s will each have a distinct sub-theme


    China-USA Business Cafe. Adapting to the culture of one’s language of study is a critical ingredient for successful functioning in the target culture environment. This is doubly true in the world of business, which is governed by culturally specific protocols. In the China-USA Business Cafe, Chinese students of business English in the US International MBA Program (USIMBA) at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-Sen University will meet online with American students of business Chinese in the UH Shidler College of Business’ China International MBA Program (CIMBA) in preparation for and during their study abroad programs at each others’ universities. Using techniques developed in the the acclaimed Cultura model, students will engage in discussion about similarities and differences in cultural values and practices in the world of business in China and in the USA. This exchange will allow both sides to anticipate and respond to the inevitable culture shock they will experience during their respective study abroad programs.

    Filipino Community Cafe. Advanced Filipino language students at UH will meet Filipino heritage students in the University of California system in an on-line Community Cafe. UC participation will be coordinated through the office of the Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching at UC Davis. The Community Cafe will create a venue for students to share ideas and experiences on outreach initiatives in local communities in Hawaiʻi and California.

    Japanese Culture Cafe. Advanced Japanese language students at Aiea High School in Honolulu will meet English language students at Tezukayama Gakuin Izumigaoka High School in Osaka, Japan, in an on-line Culture Cafe. The cafe format will be based on the well-regarded MIT Cultura model funded by NEH. This project allows students not only to improve their target language skills but also to compare and contrast their cultural values with the values of the target culture participants.

    Samoan Pathways Cafe. Advanced Samoan language students at UH will meet Samoan language students at American Samoa Community College in Pago Pago and Samoan language students at Farrington High School in Honolulu in an on-line Pathways Caf?. The content focus of the Pathways Cafe will be to facilitate articulation from high school and community college to university. Samoan heritage students are significantly underrepresented at institutions of higher education in the US, and this cafe project is intended to “demystify” the university experience for high school and community college students by allowing them to be exposed to and mentored by successful Samoan language students at UH.

    Teams from each café site will assemble for a one-week NFLRC workshop at UH in the summer of 2008 to define café content rubrics and operationalize their respective cafés and discuss other pedagogical considerations. The cafés will be housed on an NFLRC server.  In summer 2010 the NFLRC will convene an international CMC (computer mediated communication) Symposium in which the three culture cafés will be showcased.

    This heritage café project will be co-sponsored by the three NRCs at UH. The Southeast Asia NRC will co-sponsor the Filipino Community Café. The East Asia NRC will co-sponsor the Japanese Culture Café, and the Pacific Island NRC will co-sponsor the Samoan Pathways Café.