The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States


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The Education Of National Education

Communicative competence in a foreign language includes not only linguis- tic but also cultural and pragmatic components. Therefore, a learner needs to understand others in a broader sense, developing an intercultural compe- tence. Learners need to interpret the world from plural perspectives, to re- spect the different value systems, and avoid stereotypes. In this process learn- ers can appreciate without bias the system of values of their own culture. It was for this reason that stakeholders stressed the importance of merging stu- dents into the target culture, for instance through study-abroad programs.

Therefore, the need of defining a policy aimed at emphasizing the inter- nationalization of U. This need combines with the two traits that have always driven the educational and language policy of the United States: economic development and security. The launch of the Internet and global competition should be enough. And so it was that, in , at the ACTFL summit in Baltimore, many experts and politicians discussed the need for a plan of action for increasing opportunities for American students to study abroad and to study foreign languages.

We need to build a strong foundation for growth and prosperity. NAFSA involved many stakeholders e. The Task Force suggested that only a period abroad can allow American students to develop language skills and multiple ways of interpreting different actions and behaviors of target cultures. A significant cultural change needs to occur. This is not about learning something that is helpful or simply nice to have. The relationships that are formed be- tween individuals from different countries as part of international ed- ucation programs and exchanges can also foster goodwill that devel- ops into vibrant, mutually beneficial partnerships among nations.

Since this project allowed more than 2 million European students to spend a period abroad to study in the target academic context. The Foundation aims at reaching 1 million American students going to study abroad programs in the next ten years and at encouraging universities to de- velop international programs.

Gutting US foreign language education will cost us for generations

The act had the endorsement of dozens of or- ganizations. Were the foundation to be finally approved, it would represent the most remarkable change in the internationalization of education policy in the United States. Since the early twentieth century the prestigious foundation Rhodes funded scholarships for studying at Oxford, while after World War II the Fulbright Foundation helped to improve mobility of thousands of students and professors between the United States and foreign countries.

Most American universities and colleges have programs for internationali- zation and study abroad, as do many high schools. The number of students who attend study abroad programs has grown tremendously in recent years. However, this number represents less than 1 per- cent of students enrolled in college Institute of International Education [IIE], According to the IIE survey, the study areas mostly covered in these pro- grams are the Social Sciences Foreign Language students represent only 5.

Among the geographical areas, Europe is chosen by half of the American students, Latin America by 15 percent, and Asia by 12 percent. The most popular destination is the United Kingdom with 34, students, accounting for Italy stands in second place, with 29, students represent- ing The number of foreign students who come to study in the United States is very different. The countries most represented are China, with , students an increase of 21 percent over the previous year , followed by India, South Korea, Canada, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, and Nepal, among others.

In the first 25 positions there are only four European countries: Germany 12th , UK 13th , France 17th , and Spain 25th. These outcomes are considered unsatisfactory by the ACTFL, which underlines the need of studying a foreign language at an early ages in order to create a multilingual population. Nonetheless, about half of high-school students do not attend language courses. Skorton and Altschuler , 1 identified one of the main reasons why the offering of foreign language instruction tremendously decreased in private and elementary schools from 31 to 25 percent from to and in middle schools from 75 to 58 percent as being budget cuts.

According to this study, these cuts also affected the quality of foreign language teaching of- fered within these educational contexts.

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In higher education, the situation is not much better. If there was a sharp increase in numbers of students attending language courses especially since , in only 8. Learners of Spanish at all levels of instruction exceed the sum of all other foreign language students. In fact, in the number of U. From that moment, there was a slow but evident decrease in enrollments, and it was only starting in that there was a change.

English as a World Language/Foreign Language Education in the U.S.

This probably means that the National Defense Education Act NDEA was successful in increasing enrollment at college but not for foreign language courses. According to Furman, Goldberg, and Lusin this de- cline may be due to the decline in language requirements. Success in promoting FL knowledge among American citi- zens also depends on a cultural and educational change, using the resources that already exist.

If monolingualism is interpreted as a negative aspect, it is also true that the United States have never been a monolingual country. Contrary to popular belief, bilingualism and not monolingualism seems to be the common practice in the world. Bilingualism is present on all continents, in all classes of society, in all age groups. For instance, the United States has always been a multilingual country because of the diverse languages of immi- grants, which added to hundreds of languages spoken by Native Americans.

The U. Census Bureau, collecting language data in its decennial census- es until , listed languages spoken in the nation. See below. For politicians and the conservative part of the population, it is bilingualism that was and is that is seen as a problem.

Foreign Language Learning in K Classrooms in the USA | SpringerLink

These lan- guages range from a few thousands or hundreds of speakers of some Native- American languages that are at risk of extinction, to millions of speakers of Spanish. These data clearly show that the United States is a multilingual na- tion.


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However, that is not sufficient to affirm that bilingualism or multilin- gualism is a normal condition in the country. In fact, how many American citizens can be considered at least bilingual? How many of the 21 percent who speak another language at home speak English as well? In order to an- swer this question, first of all we need to determine what being bilingual or multilingual means. Bilingualism and multilingualism are areas of interest for many different scientific fields: psychology, linguistics, educational linguistics, sociology, pol- itics, and pedagogy. From the linguistics theoretical, applied, and educational point of view the question of how to define bilingualism or multilingualism is obviously not a new one, and many scholars have given interpretations that differ con- siderably Grosjean, ; Cenoz and Gorter, ; Hamers and Blanc ; Baker, All types of bilingual speakers are included within this continuum.

For instance, individuals who have learned one or more languages at school— either as child or as adult—or have spent a period of time abroad can be con- sidered bilingual. The description of the continuum may be much more complex and multidimensional if we add the knowledge of other languages.

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In this chapter we accept and use this def- inition, even though it may have some limits. As mentioned above, these data showed that in 60 million people, 21 percent of the total, declared that they spoke a language different from English at home. However, the survey asked people to self-evaluate their own speaking ability in English.

Of the re- spondents, Therefore, if we interpret these data according to our definition, we can affirm that 77 percent of this population is at least bilingual—that is 47 mil- lion of people, around 17 percent of the total population. However, if we want to know how many bilinguals or multilinguals live in the United States, these data are not enough.

In fact, this level may depend on many variables e. Do they speak at least one foreign language at a certain level of proficiency? Unfortunately, the Census does not provide any information about these factors. However, in many states, we can easily conclude that many English-speaking Americans speak a language other than English outside their homes. For instance, in states like Florida, Texas, and California, the great majority of the respective popula- tions interacts in Spanish at some point during the day.

As Michael Herard points out in his article published in the New York Times, the Census should ask the same question that the European Commis- sion used in its surveys to investigate languages spoken in Europe, that is, what are the languages that you speak well enough in order to be able to have a conversation? But there is no room for complacency.

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All experts, politicians, commentators, and stakeholders agree that this is not enough in order to take on the challenges that the globalized world poses to the United States. This turn called for an important change in approaches and methods in language education. By Michael Erard. Published on January 14, This point of view appears to be the most appropriate response to the needs of people and to the demands of globalization, and language policy makers were aware of that.

During the s, either in Europe or in the United States, stakeholders asked for a change in language education policy. Since the s the Language Policy Division of the Council of Europe CoE adopted a plurilingual approach, convinced that the rich heritage of languages and cultures in Europe was a valuable resource to be protected and promoted. The CEFR is the most important language educa- tion policy document in Europe, and it has worldwide influence. Instead, the aim is to develop a linguistic repertory, in which all linguistic abilities have a place. This implies, of course, that the languages offered in educational institu- tions should be diversified and students given the opportunity to de- velop a plurilingual competence.

The European Union values all the languages spoken in Europe at the same level: Language and cultural diversity are a asset, not a problem. In the same period in the United States a debate began on what the most appropriate educational policies for the challenges of the new millennium might be.

This document also seeks to provide an educational response to the new challenges that the United States will face in the near future: those externally represented by globalization and those internally characterized by an increas- ingly pluralistic society. Even if the context is completely different, the Standards shares with the CEFR the same theoretical background. Nowadays the two terms seem interchangeable with a preference for multilingualism that is widely spread in the literature also with the meaning given to plurilingualism.


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The document ACTFL, stresses that: The United States must educate students who are linguistically and culturally equipped to communicate successfully in a pluralistic American society and abroad. ALL students will develop and main- tain proficiency in English and at least one other language, modern or classical. People from non-English backgrounds should also have op- portunities to develop further proficiencies in their first language. In any case, the discussion about the application of the CCSS also involves a discussion about bilingualism and multilingualism in the USA class- room.

It is up to the more theoretically applicative disciplines—applied lin- guistics and educational linguistics, first of all—to translate these principles into approaches and methods that are consistent with the theory in order to adapt them to the needs of the society. None of the documents mentioned thus far suggests or describes a meth- od, but they define the key principles according to which the approaches and methods must be respected. She suggests some plurilingual practices as follow: 1.

Treat L1, L2, and L3 as available semiotic repertoires, not as structural rules and self-enclosed systems; 2. Explicitly teach the relation between multiple modalities, regis- ters, and genres; 3. Engage with texts on multiple levels of indexicality … ;24 4. Bring back translation, full or partial, into our L2 literary practic- es; 5. Mainly discuss with colleagues in FL departments: For whom are we teaching foreign languages? That goal creates a feel- ing of failure and incompleteness in students.

In traditional methods and classroom-language practices, phenomena like codemixing, codeswitching, and translanguaging are not allowed by the teachers. On the contrary, the proposed multilingual and holistic approach looks at these phenomena as characteristics of the multilingual practice. Their approach valorizes the other languages present in the classroom as a result of the different experiences and identities of the students. The Modern Language Journal, 95, iii Cande- lier defines this one as the most extreme one since students work with several languages.

In recent years, there has been considerable growth in the number of students studying Asian languages in U.


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Yet the study of Asian languages compared to European languages still remains small. And when it comes to international comparisons, U. The United States lags in international comparisons partly because other countries begin language education at a much younger age, said Vivien Stewart , vice president for education for Asia Society. Twenty-one of the top 25 industrialized countries begin the study of world languages in grades K This is a stark contrast to the United States, where most students who study a foreign language don't begin until age And 21 of the 31 European countries require students to study another language for at least nine years.

In , the Center for Applied Linguistics completed a survey examining the successes of other countries when it comes to foreign language skills.

The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States
The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States
The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States
The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States
The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States The Future of Foreign Language Education in the United States

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