BALSSI 2019: Eight Weeks of Baltic Languages and Culture

Oct 4, 2019


BALSSI 2019, hosted by the Indiana University Language Workshop, offered eight weeks of intensive instruction in Latvian and Lithuanian. A planned course in Estonian was cancelled due to under-enrollment. With support from Consortium partners, the AABS, and the Department of State’s Title VIII program, BALSSI 2019 trained three students of Elementary Latvian to Intermediate Low proficiency on the ACTFL scale, trained four students of Elementary Lithuanian to Intermediate Low or Mid, and trained two students of Lithuanian – one of whom rose from Novice High to Intermediate Mid and the other of whom rose from Intermediate Mid to Advanced Low.

BALSSI 2019 students

The BALSSI students joined 278 students of other languages in the Indiana University Language Workshop. Embedding BALSSI in the larger Workshop provides students of Baltic languages access to a wide range of career-planning, grant-writing, and area studies presentations. The international atmosphere of the Workshop facilitates cross-cultural exchanges between BALSSI students and students and faculty from countries historically connected with the Baltic region, enriching the language-learning experience for BALSSI and non- BALSSI students alike.


Veteran BALSSI instructor Dalia Cidzikaite returned to teach Lithuanian 1. Agne Strolyte, a Lithuanian instructor based in Tallinn, taught Lithuanian 2, and Solvita Poseiko, currently visiting lecturer at the University of Washington, taught Latvian 1.

Cultural Programming

The Workshop provided a busy and varied schedule of co-curricular activities for each language, including:

1. Language Tables

The Workshop organized language tables at least once each week for each language. Faculty and guests used this time to introduce games, conduct guided and unguided discussions, and to explore individual aspects of Baltic culture in depth. Visiting speakers were invited to the language tables to converse with BALSSI participants.

The Milukas family from Connecticut visiting Lithuanian students at BALSSI 2019.

2. Cooking Demonstration and Food Festival

The BALSSI instructors organized cooking demonstrations for participants. Having incorporated the activity into their lessons, they provided an overview of Baltic culinary traditions, then assisted participants in preparing traditional Lithuanian and Latvian dishes.

3. The Baltic Showcase

BALSSI instructors planned and managed a public performance of traditional Lithuanian and Latvian folk songs for the greater Summer Language Workshop community. Following a 30-minute performance, participants and the audience dined on traditional Baltic cuisine prepared by the BALSSI instructors and their students.

4. Hedgehogs Concert
Baltic Ensemble “The Hedgehogs” returned for the fourth summer. Dr. Ain Haas, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, provided an overview of Baltic musical traditions, as well as historical events and cultural traditions influencing the evolution of Baltic music. His presentation concluded with a concert featuring popular Baltic folk songs.

Baltic Ensemble “The Hedgehogs” returned to BALSSI for the fourth summer.

BALSSI Symposium

Workshop organized a symposium in celebration of the 25th anniversary of BALSSI, inviting alumni and students to discuss the significance and impact of the Institute over the years.

  1. Dr. Tom DuBois gave a presentation on the history of BALSSI.
  2. Dr. Guntis Smidchens discussed BALSSI’s significance and impact to the field.
  3. Dr. Toivo Raun, Professor at the Indiana University Department of Central Eurasian Studies, discussed the connection between BALSSI and Indiana University
  4. Dr. Piibi-Kai Pivik and Dr. Dalia Cidzikaite shared their experiences teaching Baltic languages BALSSI across a number of universities.

Panel discussion at the symposium in celebration of the 25th anniversary of BALSSI.

Conclusion and BALSSI 2020

Indiana University is honored to have been invited to host BALSSI in 2020 and thanks its Consortium partners for their financial and institutional support. We are particularly grateful to AABS for its generous contributions and for its ongoing support for summer instruction in Baltic languages and cultures.

The 2020 Baltic Studies Summer Institute will be taking place from June 8–July 31, 2020 and offers intensive EstonianLatvian, and Lithuanian language courses. Application deadline for BALSSI 2020 is January 31, 2020.

At Indiana University, BALSSI is held in conjunction with the Language Workshop’s summer courses and benefits from the Workshop’s long experience as a leader in intensive summer language instruction and programming. Students complete the equivalent of one year of academic instruction in the program and earn 6-8 credits, which can be transferred to other institutions.


The deadline for BALSSI 2020 applications is January 31, 2020.

BALSSI was founded in 1994 and is supported by a consortium of American universities: Indiana University, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Illinois, University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas, University of Washington, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. BALSSI is held in different universities in different years. Indiana University hosted in 1998 –1999, 2005 – 2006, and 2016 – 2020.

The Workshop has been offering intensive language training at the Bloomington campus of Indiana University since 1950. Drawing on the resources of Indiana University’s language and area studies specialists and employing highly qualified and experienced faculty from other universities in the US and abroad, the Language Workshop has developed and maintained a national program of the highest quality. The Workshop’s curriculum emphasizes communicative classrooms focused on the student and on development of level-appropriate proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, and culture. A full range of cultural and linguistic extracurricular activities complement classroom instruction for every language.