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Articles: World Language

The global economy demands globally educated workers and citizens. About 1,300 schools in the United States—and a total of about 3,200 in 141 countries worldwide—have turned to the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum as their ticket to educating students who are worldly-wise.

language learning students in China FLAP grant

While in the fourth year of a five-year Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) federal grant, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) learned in late December that Congress had cut the grant’s final year of funding. ACTFL had used its portion of the grant, which was created to improve innovative foreign language programs, to develop nationally recognized language assessments. Consequently, four years’ worth of work developing these tests assessments would go unfinished.

For many, an instinctual reflex is to marry the term “college town” with images from the movie Animal House. While stories of youthful exuberance make for interesting water cooler conversation, they serve to conceal real opportunities for public schools to collaborate with postsecondary institutions.

Northeast Yucai Oxford International High School, a first-of-its-kind public school, opened its doors in Shenyang, China, this fall. The school, a joint partnership between Oxford (Mich.) Community Schools and Northeast Yucai Education Group in Shenyang, allows American and Chinese high school students to attend and earn dual degrees for each country.

Becoming more global is a familiar refrain for many a school administrator or curriculum developer wrestling with delivering 21st century skills. Over the past decade, districts have expanded their foreign language programs, added Mandarin Chinese to the mix, and in some cases launched language immersion classes in their elementary schools. Others have opened entire schools designed around international education.

More than 80 percent of El Paso's 700,000 residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. The Texas city has a preponderance of schoolchildren with a command of both Spanish and English.

Many language advocates are hoping to see the Elementary and Secondary Education Act promptly picked up by the 112th Congress in January—with a new bill included. The Excellence and Innovation in Language Learning Act, introduced in July 2010 by Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), proposes $400 million in funding to teach world languages to K12 students.

Last year, 15 students in the Montpelier (Vt.) High School's advanced placement Spanish class paid class-time visits every week to a nearby dairy farm. They interacted with the Mexican laborers by conversing with them in Spanish, having picnics together, and playing cards and soccer. as the students advanced their Spanish verbal skills, they also befriended the workers, helping to ease their feelings of loneliness.

The word "globalization" doesn't often conjure images of the U.S. heartland, but one Oklahoma district is going global through an innovative approach to teaching foreign language. Jenks Public Schools Superintendent Kirby Lehman is a strong supporter of foreign language and cultural integration. His appreciation for Chinese education led him to create Chinese language and exchange programs for Jenks Middle School and Jenks High School.

The latest trend in the rapidly advancing and fiercely competitive interactive whiteboard market reflects the ever-increasing popularity and global appeal of this technology: support for multiple languages. A variety of manufacturers have recently added or expanded their language resources because of U.S. demand for teaching ELL students, the use of the devices in foreign language classes and strong sales in countries around the world.

 

Tapping into technology for foreign language learning is important, given that such learning is increasingly being seen as vital to the nation’s economic and cultural well-being.

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