Laura Loves Languages

A place for many opinions

Language Advocacy is everybody’s business, especially in 2010

Lately, I have been seeing some troubling trends that affect my profession in a big way. First, my alma mater, GWU, did away with its Foreign Language requirement. GW is where my language educator journey began under the guidance of my mentor, Professor John Andrew Frey, and it is essentially where I learned to appreciate and teach the French language that I love.  I just know how my dissertation director would have reacted to this  disheartening news. See the article:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/04/19/gwu#Comments

Next, I have just learned that in 2010,  a Washington Post  columnist is debating why schools should bother to offer foreign languages at all:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/20/AR2010042004084.html

My question is how did we get to the point in this flat world of ours that we still question the need to communicate with the rest of the world in languages other than English?  What is clear to me as a veteran language educator is that we all must speak up, new teachers and veterans, and challenge those who  do not see the obvious- that learning a second language is vital to our well-being and our future.  Communicative competence  opens the door to other cultures  and ways of thinking in the most authentic way possible.   Increasing the number of proficient speakers of languages other than Englishwill necessarily increase our global awareness,  economic strength and  our capacity to live in security and peace.

 It is ironic that the threat to language programs comes at a time where we have made so many technological breakthroughs that allow us to communicate globally. We now have all the tools to give students practical and meaningful experiences in the classroom.  Instead of limiting language study to doing routine and often boring drill work, students can actually communicate with  the world for free, via Skype and language exchanges such as Hello-Hello and the Mixxer. The technology is easy to use and most importantly, it is engaging. (Google these tools for more info.)  It is also so much easier to give our students meaningful study abroad experiences and service learning opportunities that allow them to interact directly with native speakers of the languages that they study in school.

http://www.usglobalcompetence.org/videos/engaging_large.html

(retrieved from Fulbright-Hays- Title VI website)

To my language colleagues, the time for advocacy is now. Our profession did not escape the economic downturn.  Indeed, teachers from all disciplines have been laid off due to budget shortfalls.  I know that when I was a young teacher in the early eighties, I was much more interested in what happened inside my classroom than in joining language organizations or writing letters, but if we do not all raise our voices to defend our discipline, who will do it for us?

What can we do as individuals?

  • Join your local language association and be active.  Most all of the state language organizations have conferences and websites where you can find out how to get involved.
  • Learn all about Foreign Language advocacy at http://www.languagepolicy.org/
  • Write an article for your local language organization newsletter.
  • Showcase your language program in the local media. Keep FL in the public eye.
  • If you cannot participate personally in organization activities, your organization membership will still help support its FL advocacy efforts. Join so that they can use your membership dues to represent you.
  • Read about H.R. 4065 and let your representatives know you support it.
  • Plug into your regional language organization: NECTFL, Central States, SCOLT, and SWCOLT and PNCFL
  • Learn about ACTFL’s Discover Languages advocacy campaign and participate in it.

Blog about it, use the media, tweet…. no shortage of  ways to communicate, right?  Together, we can insure a better future for our profession.

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April 24, 2010 - Posted by | Community College, Languages, NECTFL | , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I’m with you in the fight! It’s so ignorant (if ever there was le mot juste) to think that language education is expendable.

    Comment by Angela Gunder | April 25, 2010 | Reply

    • The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Merci, ma pouce.

      Comment by chloebentley | April 26, 2010 | Reply

  2. I totally concur with you. Living in a community that is comprised of a majority of Latin American speakers and having many diverse cultures in the Phoenix Arizona area, it is abundantly clear the direction our country should be headed in. We must accept that we are a multi-cultural global society that embraces our differences and tries to live together in peace. Language i.e. communicating with one another prevents isolation and opens our minds to endless possibilities. Discontinuing language education is a disservice to future generations.

    Comment by Marianne Kempton | April 26, 2010 | Reply


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