Monthly Archives: September 2012

Robert Peckham and the French language Program

It is unfortunate that the University of Tennessee at Martin has decided to abandon its French program, despite the two-year effort by its own French professor, Robert Peckham, to save it.  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s September 21, 2012 issue, the university refused Peckham’s bid to merge French and other language departments into one single foreign language program, a tactic that recently has been used successfully by some universities facing similar cuts.  Cited for the reason behind the dismantling of the French program was the fact that it had failed to produce more than ten majors a year over the previous five years.  Peckham vows to remain an advocate for foreign languages. Goodness knows that in this climate, he needs all the support he can get!


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Report on Foreign Language Learning in Europe

Following information from  Please note that the full report can be found at

Children are starting to learn foreign languages at an increasingly early age in Europe, with most pupils beginning when they are 6-9 years old, according to a report published by the European Commission. A majority of countries or regions have lowered the starting age for compulsory language learning in the past 15 years and some even offer it in pre-school – the German speaking community in Belgium, for instance, provides foreign language learning for children as young as 3. The Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 report confirms that English is by far the most taught foreign language in nearly all European countries, with French, Spanish, German and Russian following far behind.

“Linguistic and cultural diversity is one of the European Union’s major assets,” says Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. “Language learning facilitates communication between peoples and countries, as well as encouraging cross-border mobility and the integration of migrants. I am happy to see that even our youngest citizens are being exposed to the joys of discovering foreign languages. I also encourage people to look beyond the most widely-used languages so they can appreciate Europe’s incredible linguistic diversity.”

The report highlights that an increasing number of pupils now learn two languages for at least one year during compulsory education. On average, in 2009/10, 60.8% of lower secondary education students were learning two or more foreign languages – an increase of 14.1% compared to 2004/05. During the same period, the proportion of primary education pupils not learning a foreign language fell from 32.5% to 21.8%.

English is the most taught foreign language in nearly all of the 32 countries covered in the survey (27 Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey) – a trend that has significantly increased since 2004/05. In lower secondary and general upper secondary education, the percentage of students learning English exceeds 90%.Only a very small percentage of pupils (0-5 %, according to the country) learn languages other than English, French, Spanish, German and Russian.

The report also confirms a rather surprising finding – few countries require their trainee language teachers to spend an immersion period abroad. Indeed, only 53.8 % of foreign language teachers who took part in the recently published European Survey on Language Competences (IP/12/679) stated they have spent more than a month studying in a country where the language they teach is spoken. But this average masks a wide variation of approaches: 79.7% of Spanish teachers have spent more than one month studying their chosen language in a country where it is spoken, while this applies to only 11% of Estonian teachers . These findings raise the question of whether exposing future teachers to on-the-ground experience of using the language should be considered as a quality criterion in teacher training.

The importance of language learning will be a focus of the ‘Multilingualism in Europe’ conference, which the Commission is organising in Limassol, Cyprus, on 26-28 September. Commissioner Vassiliou will deliver the keynote speech.


Multilingualism in the EU

The European Commission fosters multilingualism and language learning in order to 1) promote intercultural dialogue and a more inclusive society; 2) help the public to develop a sense of EU citizenship; 3) open up opportunities for young people to study and work abroad and 4) open up new markets for EU businesses competing at the global level.

The goal is a Europe where everyone is taught at least two languages in addition to their own mother tongue from a very early age. The ‘mother-tongue +2′ objective was set by EU heads of state and government at the Barcelona Summit in March 2002. To encourage progress towards this goal, the Commission’s new’Rethinking Skills’ strategy, due to be adopted in November, will propose a benchmark on language learning.

‘Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012’

The report shows that most countries have lowered the starting age for compulsory language learning in the past 15 years, with the exception of Belgium (French-speaking community), Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the UK.

While the age of students starting to learn a foreign language has decreased in general, the amount of teaching time they receive has not significantly increased. Indeed, teaching time dedicated to foreign languages is rather low compared to other subjects.

Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 provides comprehensive evidence to support policy-making and to improve the quality and efficiency of language learning. Promotion of language learning is one of the main objectives of the Commission’s Education and Training (ET 2020) strategy, and also crucial for encouraging the cross-border mobility of EU citizens, which is one of the aims of the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth.

Produced every 3-4 years, the report brings together a variety of data sources and provides a complete picture of language teaching in the 32 participating countries It measures 61 indicators in five categories: context, organisation, participation, teachers and teaching processes. The data is mainly drawn from four sources: Eurydice, Eurostat, the European Survey on Language Competences, and the OECD’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) international survey.

It combines this statistical data with a description of the context and organisation of foreign language teaching, student participation levels as well as details of the initial and continuing education of foreign language teachers. In addition, the report also presents trends in language teaching over the years and analyses the present situation in comparison with the past. .

Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 is a joint Eurydice/Eurostat publication, produced in close cooperation with the European Commission.



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NSA, Pentagon Training Future Federal Agents through Foreign Language Programs

Written by Joe Wolverton, II for The New, August 27, 2012:

Our children may be learning to be more than just bilingual at their elementary schools’ language immersion program. Since 2006 the federal government has spent millions to turn elementary schools around the country into training centers for future government intelligence agents.

In 2006, President George W. Bush announced the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), a public school program to be coordinated by the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and the Director of National Intelligence.

A part of the larger National Security Education Program (NSEP), a Pentagon budget projection for Fiscal Year 2012 explained the purpose of the program was to “provide a cadre of highly qualified candidates for employment in the national security community.” Teaching “less commonly taught languages” to the nation’s children will guarantee a steady flow of “qualified language proficient candidates to the Federal sector.”

At a Senate hearing on the program in May, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) cited studies indicating that teaching children languages in elementary school makes them more proficient speakers as adults. Akaka is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia and he said “Our national and economic security is closely linked to how well our schools prepare students to succeed in a global environment.”

From kindergarten to twelfth grade, Washington is sending money to local school districts to help pay for the teachers and resources necessary to create these classes. Lily Bueno is one of the teachers hired with NSLI money. Bueno will begin teaching Portuguese at Lakeview Elementary School in Provo, Utah. According to an article in the (Provo) Daily Herald,“the U.S. government has deemed Portuguese a critical, strategic language to know for the future.” Utah received a $124,000 grant from the federal government, $10,000 of which will fund a “student training camp” to be held in the Lakeview district.

When school starts next week, 54 first-grade students will begin their 12-year federally funded language training program. In Gig Harbor, Washington, local high school junior John Adams will travel to China to study Chinese thanks to an NSLI scholarship.

Cash strapped schools are pleased to receive the money to support foreign language departments threatened by budget cuts. The problem with the NSLI, however, is that it is another step toward absolute federal control of local education standards and practices.

Another disturbing aspect of the NSLI is the indoctrination that is the byproduct of education managed by Washington. While most parents encourage their children to study foreign language, many would balk at having the federal government manage and monitor such instruction.

During his testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Glenn Nordin (principal foreign language and area advisor at the Pentagon) said that proficiency in a foreign language is one of the basic skills necessary “to combat violent extremism, counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, provide strategic intelligence and warning, integrate counterintelligence, enhance cyber security, and support diplomatic, military, and law enforcement operations.”

Such declarations remind one of James Madison’s warning that “If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

The frequent flouter of the Fourth Amendment, the National Security Agency (NSA), manages the K-12 language training initiative called STARTALK. In 2009, NSA and the Central Security Service (CSS) issued the following report on the success of STARTALK:

Working with the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, NSA/CSS established STARTALK as a first-rate academic program that attracted the participation of top language educators across the country over the last two years, STARTALK has grown in enrollment and funding. In 2007, the first year of STARTALK’s implementation, 34 programs in Chinese and Arabic were held across 21 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), reaching over 1300 high school students and high school and college teachers. In 2008, STARTALK doubled in funding, with academic partnerships being established in nine additional states. More than 3,700 students and teachers participated in 2008, and enrollment expanded to include middle schools. Program offerings focused on not only Chinese and Arabic, but also Hindi, Urdu, and Farsi.

Other languages are currently being pushed by the NSLI and STARTALK program. As reported above, the Daily Herald reports that “The U.S. government has deemed Portuguese a critical, strategic language to know for the future.”

Portuguese is the official languae of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is also one of the official languages of East Timor, Macau, and Equatorial Guinea.

The African Languages Initiative is one of the nine initiatives under the NSEP umbrella and focuses on promoting Portuguese.

Government literature supporting the various programs and initiatives make it clear that protection of national security is the reason that thousands of our youngest students eager to learn a second language are unwittingly being groomed by the government to “fill the ranks of the foreign service.”

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