Monthly Archives: October 2012

Bulgaria to Reform School Foreign Language Curricula

Article from Poliglotti4.eu, September 25, 2012:

Plans for Bulgaria to reform school foreign language curricula come against a background of a European Commission report that children in Europe are learning foreign languages at increasingly younger ages.

Bulgaria frequently claims labour market competitiveness on the grounds of its young people’s mastery of foreign languages.

The reforms to be put to Parliament are intended to improve pupils’ ability to speak foreign languages colloquially, rather than emphasise theoretical rules of grammar.

Ignatov said that an important trend was to lessen theory in favour of practice “so that students, at the end of seventh grade, can communicate successfully in the foreign language”. This meant pupils being able to express themselves properly in a foreign language, including in writing.

If the changes are approved by Parliament, in the 2014/15 academic year, there will be new textbooks and curricula for English, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and French. The new textbooks will provide for more conversational exercises and practical tasks.

He said that the shortage of English teachers was being overcome because demand among Bulgarian school pupils to learn the language was high.

On September 20 2012, the European Commission said that children are starting to learn foreign languages at an increasingly early age in Europe, with most pupils beginning when they are six to nine years old.

Most 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 three.

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,” Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said.

“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 per cent of lower secondary education students were learning two or more foreign languages – an increase of 14.1 per cent compared to 2004/05. During the same period, the proportion of primary education pupils not learning a foreign language fell from 32.5 per cent to 21.8 per cent.

English is the most taught foreign language in nearly all of the 32 countries covered in the survey (27 Eu 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 per cent.Only a very small percentage of pupils (0-5 per cent, 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 per cent of foreign language teachers who took part in the recently published European Survey on Language Competences said that they had 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 per cent 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 per cent 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 European Commission said.

Source: sofiaglobe.com

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Modern Language Association Annual Meeting 2013

The MLA Annual Convention will take place in Boston at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Center and the Sheraton Boston from January 3-6, 2013. Those interested in attending should go to its convention website: http://www.mla.org/convention
for further details.

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2012 ACTFL Annual Convention

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages will hold its annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA, November 16-18, 2012. Anyone interested in attending the convention can access further information by going to its website: http://www.actfl.org/conventions/2012-annual-convention-and-world-languages-expo

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University of Utah’s New Foreign Language Center

Article from unews.utah.edu, October 4, 2012:

Students now have a central location to receive foreign language guidance and work with faculty on research at the newly created Second Language Teaching and Research Center (L2TReC) at the University of Utah’s College of Humanities.

The college has established the center in part as a way to increase collaboration with the foreign language initiatives at the Utah State Office of Education. The new center is co-directed by Jane Hacking and Fernando Rubio, professors of Russian linguistics and Spanish linguistics, respectively.

Second language education had been previously supervised by the university’s Department of Languages and Literature, and work will continue with faculty and students there. But the new center now will allow for increased collaboration with the university’s Department of Linguistics, Asia Center, Latin American Studies, Middle East Center and College of Education, as well as other institutions of higher education around the state and K-12 students via the Utah State Office of Education.

“One of our goals is to serve as a centralized point of contact for everyone, both from the university and the community, interested in the teaching or learning of languages other than English,” says Rubio.

The center will deliver and coordinate foreign language instruction through a student’s junior year, while providing advice and support as they decide which language to take and at what level. The newly created unit will also serve as the final word on verification of university language requirements. It will offer direction on requirements for graduate students from programs across the university and advise undergraduate students seeking to fulfill the Bachelor of Arts degree language requirement.

The center also will promote research into how people learn a second language, or the field of second language acquisition. As part of this effort and in conjunction with the Department of Linguistics, the center is hosting Hui-wen Cheng for academic year 2012-13. Hui-wen is a postdoctoral fellow and specialist in second language reading. The center also has established a student research grant program, to which students from across the university can apply for funds to support research projects in any area of second language acquisition or second language teaching.

Community to Benefit

Educators, students, business and government entities across the state will benefit from establishment of the Second Language Teaching and Research Center.

“Collaboration with the community was a major focus of our planning as we created the center,” says Hacking. “We know that success in second language education begins at an early age and this was our opportunity to work with state educators. We have also been working with business and government leaders who are looking for well-educated students with a demonstrated ability in a second language.”

Younger students from grades K through 12 will benefit through the center’s greater outreach and training for teachers in those grades. The center will assume a prominent role in supporting the state-wide legislatively funded Dual Language Immersion project – where from kindergarten to the sixth grade, 50 percent of a student’s day is spent in second language instruction and the other 50 percent is spent with their English-speaking teacher. The center will also promote immersion research, educating pre- and in-service teachers and assisting with immersion curriculum.

The federal government is expected to be a big beneficiary of a central second language center at the University of Utah. Some agencies regularly look to Utah for workers educated in a second language. Discussions already have been held with representatives from the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency about their needs and how to collaborate on providing graduating students with the skills needed to secure employment.

The U.S. Department of Education is already looking to help expand the university’s Latin American Studies program and just awarded the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program more than $80,000 to support Portuguese language instruction and study abroad programs for students, such as the new study abroad program in Brazil.

Johanna Watzinger-Tharp, associate dean for the College of Humanities, says this grant is an indication that the University of Utah’s internationalization efforts are beginning to be noticed at the highest levels. “This federal grant is particularly gratifying because the awards were granted to just a few select institutions known for their international programs,” says Watzinger-Tharp.

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University of North Texas Trims Foreign Language Study

From NTDaily.com, October 3, 2012:

While it is known that UNT has had to make some tough financial cutbacks this semester, cutting back on the quality of classes is unacceptable.

This semester all lower-level French, Spanish, German and Italian language classes have been reduced from a 4-hour course to a 3-hour course. In-class labs have been replaced with online labs, and the hours of instructional class time have been reduced. Although the number of course hours is lower, the amount of course work is the same.

The university claims that these cuts were made because of scheduling issues. As a 4-hour course, language classes were taking up too many time slots on students’ schedules, leaving little room for other courses. Now that the labs are online, more students can enroll in each class. Basically, UNT is claiming that they have reduced the quality of classes for the students’ own benefit.

Let’s face it – these cuts to the language classes seem to be a direct result of UNT’s budget cuts. Although administrators are trying to spin it so it looks like they are trying to help students, they are really just cutting corners wherever possible. Who do they think they are fooling? Eliminating in-class labs does not benefit students because of scheduling issues – it leaves students with more work and less learning time. In-class lab is needed for students to use and learn in person.

In the past, students have been able to work through verbal assignments in groups with their peers or ask their instructor for help. If something was incorrect, students had the chance to be corrected and learn from the mistake.

With the new online labs, students are given the same assignments and asked to complete them without any assistance. If an answer is incorrect, students do not have the chance to learn from their mistakes. It is simply counted wrong.

A foreign language is difficult to learn, especially for beginners. These students need a conversational atmosphere where they can receive immediate feedback and interaction. With the online labs, students are easily distracted by their surroundings and cannot focus or absorb as much information as they would in a classroom.

Obviously, in-class labs were not eliminated for the benefit of the students. They were eliminated so that UNT could save money by packing more students in classes with fewer professors. With online labs, the school was able to reduce the faculty size by replacing lab professors with teacher’s assistants who grade hundreds of students’ assignments each day.

Budget cuts not only lessened the quality of the language classes, but created more work for both the students and the teacher’s assistants. Perhaps when the semester is over and UNT sees the poor grade results in these classes, administrators will open their eyes to the issues they have created.

Mallory Scudder is a journalism senior. She can be reached at malloryscudder@aol.com.

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