Preceptors hired for Tagalog, Indonesian language courses

South Asia Institute.

A spiral staircase at the South Asia Institute at the Center for Government and International Studies. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

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Tagalog language courses will be taught at Harvard for the first time this fall, along with Indonesian and Thai. The Harvard University Asia Center and the Department of South Asian Studies have announced the hire of two new preceptors to teach Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesia.

Elementary and intermediate Filipino (Tagalog) courses will be taught by Lady Aileen Orsal, a leader in Filipino language pedagogy. Orsal has previously taught at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, at Cavite State University in the Philippines and at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. She has a background in Philippine Studies, including Philippine culture, history, and politics. She has conducted research and published on traditional tattoo art, the coffee culture of the Philippines, and the use of music in political campaign jingles.

“We are extremely happy to welcome Lady Aileen Orsal to the Harvard community,” said James Robson, Victor and William Fung Director at Harvard University Asia Center. “We look forward to working with her to develop, highlight, and showcase the richness and variety of the history and cultures of the Philippines through events on the Harvard campus.”

Filipino (Tagalog) is currently the fourth-most spoken language in the U.S. (after English, Spanish, and Chinese). This is the first time the language will be taught at Harvard, in the University’s nearly 400-year history. A generous endowment funding the preceptor position ensures that Filipino languages will continue to be taught at Harvard.

Elementary, intermediate, and advanced Bahasa Indonesia courses will be taught by Sakti Suryani. Originally from Wonogiri in Central Java, Suryani has previously taught at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Montana, Missoula.

“She has earned a well-deserved reputation as a dynamic and enthusiastic teacher of Indonesian and has experience teaching Javanese,” Robson said.

Suryani held a leadership role in the Indonesian Language Team at the Southeast Asian Language Council symposium, where the focus is on developing new reading materials for use in Indonesian language instruction, and has just begun a three-year term as Secretary of the Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages (COTSEAL). She has a long-standing interest in Indonesian Gamelan music.

Thai will be offered as part of a tutorial program through South Asian Studies until a preceptor is hired.