Harvard to offer Tagalog course

Harvard is set to offer Tagalog Language Course for the first time in the institution’s history, student publication The Harvard Crimson announced on Monday, March 27.

In a statement, Crimson said the Department of South Asian Studies will hire three preceptors to teach Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesian, and Thai, for course offerings starting the 2023-24 academic year.

The teaching positions will be a three-year term appointment and are renewable for up to five additional years, it added.

Executive Director Elizabeth K. Liao said the Harvard University Asia Center secured financial support for the positions through fundraising efforts.

CGIS_0.jpeg     *Photo from the Harvard University Asia Center's website/ MANILA BULLETIN*

“We’re very excited and hopeful that these positions will be 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,” Liao wrote in an email to the publication.

James Robson, a professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and director of the Asia Center, said the department has spent more than two years working to increase education about Southeast Asia at Harvard.

“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.

There is only one course on the Philippines offered in the university, which was a survey course on the history of Southeast Asia.

“Most Southeast Asian languages are taught as part of a tutorial format within the Department of South Asian Studies,” said Jorge Espada, associate director for Southeast Asia Programs at the Asia Center.

“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.”