Tag Archives: foreign language study

Lobbyists Become Voice of Foreign Language Proponents

This is great news!

Article by Catherine Ho in Washington Post, June 30, 2013:

Bill Rivers and Hans Fenstermacher, lobbyists for the language services industry, think there is something missing from the national push to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education: an emphasis on foreign language.

That’s why they are pairing up to form what they call the first U.S. lobby for the language industry, and pushing to raise awareness on the importance of foreign language in education and the U.S. workforce.

Together, they are lobbying on federal and state-level policy issues surrounding language education, including advocating for more federal funding for language programs and opposing a bill pending in the Michigan state legislature that would allow some students to get around the two-year foreign language requirement to graduate.

Their interests reflect concerns in both the private and public sector about foreign language skills. Washington-based Fenstermacher is the founder and chairman of the Globalization & Localization Association, a trade group representing companies that provide translation and “localization” services — translating language about products based on the region ti where they’re being marketed . Rivers leads the District-based Joint National Committee for Languages and National Council for Languages and International Studies, nonprofit organizations that represent linguists, foreign language teachers and institutions pushing to improve language education in K-12 schools and universities.

“We’d like to see the definition of STEM be broader to include the areas that can create infrastructure we need from the language industry perspective,” Fenstermacher said. “When people hear ‘science,’ they think biology, engineering and chemistry. But the language industry is highly technological and scientific today. There’s a great deal of science and technology that underlies an area like ours.”

For example, Rivers said, the technology that supports translation tools such as Google Translate and Babel Fish call for programmers who have both language and technical skills. The kinds of workers the language services industry needs to hire must have a background in both.

“We face a critical language industry talent crisis and we urgently need 21st century skills to keep driving the sector,” Fenstermacher said. “Without the support from policymakers in this country, the language enterprise will fall short.”

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Fairfax, Virginia Schools to Facilitate Foreign Language Learning

Article by Rachel Baye in Washingtonexaminer.com, May 29, 2013:

Fairfax County school leaders are considering changes that would bolster students’ ability to study a foreign language from elementary school through high school without disruption.

Fairfax County Public Schools offers some kind of foreign language instruction during the school day at 40 elementary schools and countywide at middle and high schools. Some other elementary schools offer foreign languages before or after school in programs run by their parent-teacher associations.

But often students who study a language in elementary school are unable to continue learning that language in higher grades because the school feeds into a middle or high school that doesn’t offer it.

An advisory committee’s report is slated to be discussed at Thursday’s School Board meeting. As Fairfax County Public Schools continues to move toward its goal of expanding language offerings at elementary schools, the committee recommended the school system also create a pathway for students to continue studying a single language, rather than having to jump from one language to another without gaining fluency, said Carol Horn, the schools’ coordinator of Advanced Academic Programs in K-12.

“There are people from Mason District that participate in a German-language elementary program for which there is no German offered at middle school,” said Tara Rethore, an FCPS parent who represented Mason District on the advisory committee.

Students who attend the Spanish-language immersion program at Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences in Falls Church can continue their immersion program only at Poe Middle in Annandale, and if they don’t live in the district, there’s not always space, Rethore said. The students who study Arabic at Beech Tree Elementary are hard-pressed to continue it in middle and high school.

Since Mason District is the only part of the county where the sixth grade is part of middle school, seventh-grade Spanish is a repeat of the introduction that many sixth-graders take, the committee’s report details.

Even students who learned a year or two of French or Spanish before middle school lack a way to continue their studies.

For Beverly Jurenko, who also sat on the advisory committee, enrolling her seventh-grade daughter in French next year will mean she has to relearn the years of French she studied while living in Belgium or leave Kilmer Middle to attend a high school class in the middle of the school day, which would not have been easy. The school doesn’t offer any languages for seventh-graders.

“It would be fairly easy to offer another elective in the seventh grade, which is French I,” Jurenko said. “Why not offer a second-year language for eighth-graders for those that have completed seventh grade … just making sure that there’s a logical step from A to B to C.”

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Dual Language Programs Prepare Students for a Global Society

Tara Garcia Mathewson for dailyherald.com, April 28, 2013:

Most kids get excited about pizza and cupcakes when their parents let them host birthday parties. Chase Dorn always preferred sushi and seaweed.

The 15-year-old Conant High School sophomore wants to go into law and work for a Japanese company. And while she has no Japanese heritage, she speaks the language fluently, impressing natives with how accurate her accent is.

“People are always so surprised when I tell them I speak Japanese,” Chase says. “It’s always going to be a good asset. It’s become a big part of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Chase’s connection to Japanese language and culture was cemented over eight years in one of the nation’s only Japanese-English dual language programs, which started at Dooley Elementary School in Schaumburg in 2001.

Modern dual language programs have taken off in the past five to eight years, said Edward Tabet-Cubero, deputy director of Dual Language Education of New Mexico, a nonprofit technical assistance center that works with school districts across the country to implement dual language programs. He has been helping Elgin Area School District U-46 with its nearly unprecedented rollout of Spanish/English instruction, the planning for which started about three years ago.

Districts in Carpentersville, Crystal Lake, Mundelein, Elk Grove, Naperville, Vernon Hills and Woodstock also have dual language programs at various stages of development. Most offer Spanish and English as the program languages, but Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 and Barrington Area Unit District 220 also have programs in Chinese and English.

Educators and parents are increasingly seeing bilingualism as an asset, forcing program expansion across the region and creating waiting lists for the first time.

“It’s about changing the mindset of this as a remedial program for immigrant students to an enrichment program for all students to be competitive in a global marketplace,” Tabet-Cubero said.
Dual learning

The majority of dual language programs across the suburbs serve half non-English speakers and half English speakers. Schaumburg’s District 54 launched its first dual language program for Spanish speakers in 1994 but created the Japanese program at Dooley Elementary School at a time when Japanese was the second-most-common foreign language spoken.

For the two-way dual language programs, as they’re called, districts always strive to keep an even balance of students learning each language.

But both suburban Chinese programs are designed for an entire class of English speakers to learn the language, and U-46 leads the way in offering one-way dual language classes for its Spanish speaking students to become academically competent in reading, writing and speaking their first language as well as English.

The shift has been a sea change in the way U-46 approaches education for its English Language Learners. And everyone who discusses the ambitious expansion of dual language in the Elgin area district points to leadership by Superintendent José Torres as the reason for it.

“In the United States, we’ve had a schizophrenic policy that says let’s make sure all kids who don’t speak English learn English, and then when they get to high school they have to take a foreign language,” Torres said.

Torres, who grew up in Puerto Rico, spoke Spanish first and said he learned English most efficiently when he had support in his native language at the same time he was learning new concepts. As an educator, he was convinced by research showing dual language as the only program for English Language Learners that closes the achievement gap. In turn Torres pushed his staff members to offer one-way dual language to Spanish speakers in 29 elementary schools last year.

U-46 also offered two-way dual language classes in seven of those schools, increasing that number to 16 this year — and that’s compared to most districts that offer just one or two classrooms of dual language per grade level.

Both types of programs are expanding to higher grade levels in U-46 as the enrolled students age through the program — a common pace for growth across the region. Fourth-grade teachers had two days of intensive professional development Wednesday and Thursday with another session scheduled in May to help shift their teaching from a format that preferences English to one that values Spanish and English equally.

Andrea Gaitan, a teacher at Hilltop Elementary School in Elgin, said she is excited for her students to be able to see the value in their native language. They will be called “emerging bilinguals” instead of “English Language Learners,” she said.
Preparing for life

Community Unit District 220 in Barrington started offering Spanish and English dual language classes in 2004 and added a Chinese immersion program in Mandarin last year. Officials in Barrington and Schaumburg both said the decision to include Chinese options for students was in recognition of China’s global power and growing influence.

Districts want their students to be ready to effectively navigate a world in which it is increasingly important to communicate beyond national borders.

But for Becky Wiegel, a bilingual instructional coach and soon-to-be dual language summer school principal, the benefits of the growing program stretch beyond just language acquisition.

“It’s about the cognitive brain development that comes along with it,” Wiegel said. “When students speak two languages, their brains work better. That’s been proven in research.”

Districts with programs entering their second decades have plenty of test scores to back up anecdotal reports by parents and teachers about dual language students’ high achievement.

Julie Colgrove, director of language and culture for Schaumburg’s District 54, said MAP and ISAT results have consistently shown dual language students performing at the same levels or above their peers. Even the young Chinese immersion students who started last year scored exceedingly well, Colgrove said.

That has been a factor in the increasing demand for the program.

Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in Hoffman Estates is now an entirely dual language school where kindergarten students have only the option of learning in Spanish and English.

“The demand for dual language has steadily increased over the years to the point that there were minimal numbers of kindergarten students who didn’t want dual language,” Colgrove said.
What comes next?

For many schools, the next stage of dual language planning will be moving beyond elementary and middle school curriculums.

Chase Dorn, the 15-year-old Japanese speaker, said the height of her fluency was in sixth through eighth grades. At the high school level she doesn’t have options to challenge her study of Japanese.

Chase is working with Dooley Elementary School Principal Marion Friebus-Flaman to flesh out opportunities for the dual language program graduates coming behind her. She will present her ideas April 29 at the Schaumburg Library and again in May at Conant High School’s Gifted Expo.

Several districts also are in the process of creating challenging Spanish language classes at the high school level that will allow their students to spend half of their days speaking Spanish even after they age out of formal dual language programs.

District 54’s Colgrove said moving forward with dual language education is a must.

“We will do our students and our children a disservice if we don’t promote language learning while they’re young and help them as they prepare for their future in the global world and the global economy,” Colgrove said. “It’s so important.”

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Polyglot Indonesia: Honing Foreign Language Skills

Here’s some good advice on how to maintain and expand your language skills. Article by Nani Afrida in The Jakarta Post, April 16, 2013:

Arradi Nur Rizal could speak Spanish after living in Argentina for a year. As a fellow in a student exchange program, learning to speak the local language was a must.

Unfortunately, after he returned to Indonesia, Rizal lost some of his speaking ability, as he didn’t have any friends to practice with.

“I had not spoken Spanish for six years and I lost so much vocabulary as a result,” Rizal told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.

He said he did not want that to happen to others who had learned a foreign language but had nowhere to practice. Rizal and some friends who agreed decided to establish the Polyglot Indonesia community. A polyglot is someone who can speak several languages.

In Polyglot Indonesia, people who can speak several languages can meet up and practice.

Rizal believes learning a language is not easy because it requires serious study and a lot of effort. Meeting people with a similar interest in learning languages and continuing to practice is important to developing language skills.

“People in Indonesia often look down on language skills, even though many people still have the spirit to learn foreign languages, to be a polyglot,” Rizal said.

Polyglot Indonesia was established in June 2012. It is the second polyglot group in the country after a similar community was established in Yogyakarta in 2010.

However, the managers of Yogyakarta’s polyglot group received scholarships overseas and the community was abandoned temporarily.

“Now, Polyglot Yogyakarta has merged with Polyglot Indonesia and we do many activities together,” Rizal said.

The establishment of a polyglot community has drawn the attention of youth throughout the country. Besides Indonesians, foreigners have also signed up to learn Indonesian.

The community now has at least 4,000 members, according to its Facebook page, mostly those who want to practice their language skills.

The community targets three groups of people: those who have learned a foreign language abroad and are trying to maintain proficiency, those who want to improve their foreign conversational language level by practicing with native speakers, or those who want to practice their Indonesian and want to help others learn their native tongue.

“This group is fantastic for helping us develop our language skills,” Shinta, a student of Japanese literature at the University of Indonesia, said.

According to Shinta, learning with others will help enrich her Japanese proficiency.

“By practicing a lot I will not be awkward speaking or writing,” she said. “Besides, I will get more new friends who have similar interests.”

Ihtiar Nur, the Polyglot Indonesia coordinator for English and Indonesian, said the community held regular gatherings.

“We are trying to hold a gathering once a month and in the future it will be once every two weeks,” Ihtiar said, adding that currently the gatherings were once every three months.

At polyglot gatherings, members practice their language skills with other members. So far, Polyglot Indonesia has seven language desk coordinators for English, Italian, Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

There are two kinds of gatherings, those among members of the same language desk or among members of different desks.

For instance, in a gathering of Italian and Spanish desks, coordinators will set up two areas, one for Italian and the other for Spanish. Members should be able to speak in Italian when they sit at the Italian desk and in Spanish at the Spanish desk.

“The members spend 15 minutes sitting at each desk. This is the way polyglot changes languages,” Rizal explained.

According to Rizal, Polyglot Indonesia provides an environment in which people can practice languages without being intimidated.

“We expect people to share knowledge and improve their speaking skills,” he said.

However, people require only some language knowledge before joining their gatherings.

“We recommend members who join the meet-ups are those who can speak the language at a certain level, because for beginners it will be difficult,” Ihtiar said.

But beginners do not need to worry, because they can also start learning through Facebook, Twitter and the Polyglot Indonesia website.

Ihtiar, for instance, wants to learn Spanish but does not have enough ability to join meet-ups with other polyglots.

“I study the language by myself. I know that Polyglot is not a place to learn basic language,” he said, laughing.

The freelancer has been living in Sweden for two years, but cannot speak Swedish.

“All Swedes speak English, so I can speak English instead of Swedish,” he said.

As the founder of Polyglot Indonesia, Rizal believes Indonesians have the ability to learn many languages. “Indonesians are easy learners of new things because they are tough, dynamic and curious. They also have talent as they speak various languages, including local languages.”

Some tips on learning foreign languages

• Speak using simple structured sentences and easy vocabulary.

• If you are shy speaking face to face, you can use Skype or g-talk.

• To enrich vocabulary, listen to live or streaming radio, or songs in the new language.

• Always be confident.

• Try to find something interesting about the culture or country of the language.

• Focus on interlocutors’ gestures. It will help you to understand the message.

• Try to practice as much as you can because language is something developed if used often.

• Never be afraid of making a mistake.

• Join groups that have a similar interest.

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Lafayette Parish Discusses Possible Foreign Language Immersion High School

Story by Marsha Sills for theadvocate.com, March 16, 2013:

LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Parish school system foreign language immersion students could have an option to continue their immersion studies beyond middle school, if discussions to create a “world language immersion school” become a reality.

A committee of educators, businessmen and legislators is exploring the potential for a foreign language immersion high school in Lafayette that would offer foreign language immersion learning to students living inside and outside the parish. The committee’s work was mandated by Act 851 authorized by the Legislature last year to explore the feasibility of an immersion language school in Lafayette.

“The task of the committee is to create a set of desired features of the high school: the ideal curriculum, optimum size, which facilities would work best, but we also have to wrestle with the practical realities of resources,” said Jordan Kellman, committee chairman and dean of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Liberal Arts.

The group had its first official meeting Friday, however, preliminary discussions have been ongoing in the past year, members said. Its report is due to the Senate and House Education Committees on March 31 and must include responses to issues such as location, structure, management, potential partnerships, curriculum. The report must include which languages will be offered, enrollment criteria, student enrollment size, faculty and staff needed, possibility of opening for 2014-15 school year and money needed to operate it.

Discussions Friday centered on the university being a partner in the school project with the parish school system operating and managing the school. A boarding school option —with housing available on the university campus — is also being considered to open enrollment to students outside the parish.

The project could be phased in at an existing location until a stand-alone facility could be built, said committee member Paula Carson, assistant president of institutional planning and effectiveness at ULL.

Carson said the university’s research park is an ideal location for a future school building.

The expense of starting up the project wasn’t fully discussed during Friday’s meeting.

Lafayette Parish Assistant Superintendent Sandra Billeaudeau said the school district spends about $624,000 annually to operate its Early College Academy, which opened in 2008 in partnership with South Louisiana Community College. The ECA students earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree and take all their classes on SLCC’s campus.

The foreign language immersion high school group discussed starting the school within an existing school, however, Billeaudeau encouraged the group to consider creating a “unique” space for students, which will help attract students.

Committee member Nicole Boudreaux, world language specialist for Lafayette Parish schools, said she thinks the school should offer classes in philosophy, ethics and even international law to build students’ “global competency.”

The curriculum should also be flexible to enable non-immersion students interested in foreign language studies to enroll and also provide course offerings to complement existing Lafayette Parish schools of choice programs, Boudreaux said.

Students in those existing schools of choice programs could attend the school part-time to take their relevant courses, Boudreaux said. For instance, students at Northside High’s Academy of Legal Studies could attend the school to take an international law or ethics course, she said.

Immersion students should also be allowed to learn more than one language, Boudreaux said.

The legislation sets French as the “primary language” and recommends Spanish and Mandarin Chinese as other languages. All three are part of existing foreign language immersion options in Lafayette Parish schools.

On Friday, suggestions of a fourth language included Louisiana tribal languages, Arabic, Farsi, or Portuguese.

The high school will give students an advantage to compete in the global economy, said Brent Pelloquin, whose four daughters all attend French immersion at Prairie Elementary.

“I would love for there to be a high school because I’ve seen the benefits of immersion from grades preschool through five,” he said.

The committee will hold its next meeting at noon March 22 at Le Centre International de Lafayette.

Committee members include Billy Stokes, executive director of the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning; Philippe Gustin, executive director of Le Centre International de Lafayette; Philippe Aldon, of the French consulate offices in New Orleans; two members of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, Amanda LaFleur and Nicole Boudreaux; Chuck Lein, designee of Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel; Sandra Billeaudeau, designee of Lafayette Parish Superintendent Pat Cooper; Brent Pelloquin, of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce; state Reps. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, and Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas; state Sens. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, and Page Cortez, R-Lafayette; Terri Hammett, designee of Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White; Jordan Kellman, designee of ULL President Joseph Savoie; and Paula Carson, designee of Lafayette Economic Development Authority President Gregg Gothreaux.

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More Advice on How to Learn a Foreign Language

Anne Merritt in http://www.telegraph.co.uk, December 19, 2012:

It’s a myth that intelligent people are better at learning languages.
Sure, it doesn’t hurt, especially when innately academic types hold an arsenal of learning strategies. Most language learning skills, however, are in fact habits, which can be formed through a bit of discipline and self-awareness.

Here are the five most common mistakes language learners make – and how to correct them…

Not listening enough

There’s a school of linguistics that believes language learning begins with a “silent period”. Just as babies learn to produce language by hearing and parroting sounds, language learners need to practise listening in order to learn. This can reinforce learned vocabulary and structures, and help learners see patterns in language.

Listening is the communicative skill we use most in daily life, yet it can be difficult to practise unless you live in a foreign country or attend immersive language classes. The solution? Find music, podcasts, TV shows and movies in the target language, and listen, listen, listen, as often as possible.

Lack of curiosity

In language learning, attitude can be a key factor in how a student progresses.

Linguists studied attitude in language learning in the 1970s in Quebec, Canada, when tension was high between Anglo- and Francophones. The study found that Anglophones holding prejudices against French Canadians often did poorly in French language learning, even after studying French for years as a mandatory school subject.

On the other hand, a learner who is keen about the target culture will be more successful in their language studies. The culturally curious students will be more receptive to the language and more open to forming relationships with native speakers.

Rigid thinking

Linguists have found that students with a low tolerance of ambiguity tend to struggle with language learning.

Language learning involves a lot of uncertainty – students will encounter new vocabulary daily, and for each grammar rule there will be a dialectic exception or irregular verb. Until native-like fluency is achieved, there will always be some level of ambiguity.

The type of learner who sees a new word and reaches for the dictionary instead of guessing the meaning from the context may feel stressed and disoriented in an immersion class. Ultimately, they might quit their language studies out of sheer frustration. It’s a difficult mindset to break, but small exercises can help. Find a song or text in the target language and practice figuring out the gist, even if a few words are unknown.

A single method

Some learners are most comfortable with the listen-and-repeat drills of a language lab or podcast. Some need a grammar textbook to make sense of a foreign tongue. Each of these approaches is fine, but it’s a mistake to rely on only one.

Language learners who use multiple methods get to practise different skills and see concepts explained in different ways. What’s more, the variety can keep them from getting stuck in a learning rut.
When choosing a class, learners should seek a course that practises the four language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking). For self-study, try a combination of textbooks, audio lessons, and language learning apps.


It doesn’t matter how well a person can write in foreign script, conjugate a verb, or finish a vocabulary test. To learn, improve, and truly use your target language, we need to speak.

This is the stage when language students can clam up, and feelings of shyness or insecurity hinder all their hard work. In Eastern cultures where saving face is a strong social value, EFL teachers often complain that students, despite years of studying English, simply will not speak it. They’re too afraid of bungling the grammar or mispronouncing words in a way that would embarrass them.

The key is that those mistakes help language learners by showing them the limits of language, and correcting errors before they become ingrained. The more learners speak, the quicker they improve.

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Welsh Language Center Uses Science to Reverse Decline in Foreign Language Study

Great idea! Hope more school systems will follow the Center’s lead! Article by Nicola Smith for BBC News, December 21, 2102:

The National Centre for Languages in Wales has turned to the sciences to reverse the decline in pupils choosing a foreign language at GCSE.

The centre, also called Cilt Cymru, is working with 32 schools to encourage teenagers to study a language.

One project is with Stemnet, which promotes science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

It wants pupils to consider career prospects from combining science subjects with a language.

Science is compulsory in Wales at GCSE but modern foreign languages are not.

The idea is to show pupils who are considering their GCSE options that studying Stem subjects alongside languages can improve job opportunities in the UK and Europe.

Jana Witt is from Germany but is now studying a PhD at Cardiff University. She is a Stemnet “ambassador”.

“As a scientist, you are being sent abroad constantly,” she said.

World stage
“You’re going to conferences, and even if it’s a conference in the UK, there’ll be people from all over the world there and it just helps so much if you can speak their language”.

GCSE pupils in Wales have a choice of at least 30 courses but many are not opting for foreign languages.

In the past five years, the number of pupils in Wales taking French at GCSE fell by 28%. Entries for German fell by 38%. It is a similar pattern in England.

Kristina Hedges, of Cilt Cymru in Cardiff, warns that Wales needs to keep pace with the rest of Europe in language skills if it is to compete on the world stage.

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My languages help me as I can speak to the customers directly rather than go through my colleagues in different countries”

Sarah Broadhead
Tata Steel
“There is a need for language skills,” she said.

“A recent survey of employers tells as that 45% of them need people with language skills for their business.

“If we’ve only got at the moment one in four young people taking languages in their options at secondary school, then there’s a disparity between what the country needs and what we’re providing in terms of the skills of our young people.”

The Welsh government said it is committed to promoting foreign languages in schools.

Foreign languages are not compulsory in primary school either, but a spokesperson said guidance is available to the schools that choose to teach those subjects – and that it encourages others to incorporate it into the curriculum.

Sarah Broadhead works in the sales team at Tata Steel in Llanwern. She speaks French and Spanish. Her languages are a vital part of her role in the company, which has customers across the world.

“My languages help me as I can speak to the customers directly rather than go through my colleagues in different countries,” she said.

“It means I can develop a relationship myself, they can understand me and I can understand their culture a bit more too”.

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