First U.S. Study on Foreign Language Learning in 30 Years

Language Magazine, 07-31-2015
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences today announced the formation of the Commission on Language Learning, a national effort to examine the current state of U.S. language education, to project what the nation’s education needs will be in the future, and to offer recommendations for ways to meet those needs.

The Commission will work with scholarly and professional organizations around the country to gather available research about the benefits of language instruction at every educational level, from pre-school through lifelong learning, and will help to initiate a nationwide conversation about languages and international education.

The Commission was formed in response to a bipartisan Congressional request from Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Representatives Leonard Lance (R-New Jersey), David Price (D-North Carolina), Don Young (R-Alaska), and former Representative Rush Holt (D-New Jersey).

In their request, the members of Congress asked the American Academy to undertake the new study to examine the following questions: “What actions should the nation take to ensure excellence in all languages as well as international education and research, including how we may more effectively use current resources to advance language attainment?” and “How does language learning influence economic growth, cultural diplomacy, the productivity of future generations, and the fulfillment of all Americans?”

In calling for the Academy’s study, the members of Congress emphasized that American society is increasingly multilingual, Americans are more engaged around the globe than ever before, and most of the major challenges and opportunities—from public health issues to the development of new technologies—require international understanding and cooperation. Yet, by some estimates, as many as 80% of Americans can only speak one language, while, by contrast, 50% of Europeans over the age of 15 are able to converse in a second language.

“Language learning should be among our highest educational priorities in the 21st century,” American Academy President Jonathan Fanton said. “By reviewing existing practices and proposing new ideas, the Academy’s Commission will advance the conversation about language education, focusing on a body of knowledge and a set of skills that will become more critical as communication between and among cultures increases.”

Paul LeClerc, the Director of the Columbia University Global Center in Paris, has been selected to serve as chair of the Commission. An expert in the French Enlightenment, Dr. LeClerc is the past president and CEO of the New York Public Library, and he also served as President of Hunter College.

Commissioners appointed to date are: Martha Abbott, Executive Director, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages; Dan Davidson, President, American Councils for International Education; Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley; Karl Eikenberry, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General, and Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University; Rosemary Feal, Executive Director, Modern Language Association; Carol Gluck, George Sansom Professor of History, Columbia University; Philip Rubin, Senior Advisor to the President, Haskins Laboratories, and former Principal Assistant Director for Science, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Diane Wood, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit; and Pauline Yu, President, American Council of Learned Societies. More members of the Commission will be added throughout August and September.

“We hope that the commission will be a galvanizing effort,” said LeClerc, “bringing together all of the people who have done important work over the last few decades to identify the personal, social, political, commercial and even the biological benefits of language learning. The evidence, when gathered together, is striking and undeniable. For ourselves and for the nation, we need to do a better job of learning how to communicate across language barriers.”

The Commission will study all the ways in which Americans receive language education, from classes in traditional academic settings to government programs to workplace enrichment, in order to identify best practices and opportunities for improvement. The last major, national report on language learning was Strength Through Wisdom: A Critique of U.S. Capability, published in 1979 by the President’s Commission on Foreign Languages and International Studies.

Initial support for the Commission is provided by a $220,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and by the Academy’s New Initiatives Fund.

Language Magazine is offering its full support to the Academy and will be offering its readers the opportunity to share their views/expertise with the panel.

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AUTORIZAN CLASES DE ESPAÑOL EN LAS BIBLIOTECAS DEL CONDADO

Miami-Dade Legislative Item
File Number: 151447
Printable PDF Format Download Adobe Reader

File Number: 151447 File Type: Resolution Status: Amended
Version: 0 Reference: Control: Board of County Commissioners
File Name: SPANISH CLASSES IN LIBRARIES Introduced: 6/17/2015
Requester: NONE Cost: Final Action:
Agenda Date: 6/30/2015 Agenda Item Number: 11A20
Notes: SEE 151701 FOR FINAL VERSION AS ADOPTED. ALSO SEE 151151. Title: RESOLUTION AFFIRMING MIAMI-DADE COUNTY’S SUPPORT OF PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ITS RESIDENTS TO LEARN AND IMPROVE SPANISH, CREOLE AND ENGLISH LANGUAGES AT NO COST TO SUCH RESIDENTS; AUTHORIZING THE USE OF SPACE AT THE COUNTY’S FOUR REGIONAL LIBRARY BRANCHES TO HOLD AT LEAST WEEKLY CLASSES FOR TEACHING SUCH SPANISH, CREOLE AND ENGLISH CLASSES IN THE EVENING HOURS CONSISTENT WITH EXISTING LIBRARY HOURS; DIRECTING THE COUNTY MAYOR OR THE COUNTY MAYOR’S DESIGNEE TO SEEK VOLUNTEERS AND TO WORK WITH ALL UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY AND THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM TO PROVIDE INSTRUCTORS FOR SUCH CLASSES AT NO COST TO THE COUNTY [SEE ORIGINAL ITEM UNDER FILE NO. 151151]
Indexes: LIBRARIES
Sponsors: Sen. Javier D. Souto, Prime Sponsor
Audrey M. Edmonson, Co-Sponsor
Sally A. Heyman, Co-Sponsor
Rebeca Sosa, Co-Sponsor
Sunset Provision: No Effective Date: Expiration Date:

LEETA-ROSE BALLESTER: Bilingual immersion program extended to transitional kindergarten classes

River Glen

San Jose Mercury News, 08-05-2015

Students as young as 4 and 5 will be able to immerse themselves in Spanish and English in San Jose schools starting this academic year.

An immersion program that teaches students to read, write and communicate in both languages has been expanded to the San Jose Unified School District’s transitional kindergarten classes at Bachrodt Charter Academy, which is open to all students residing in the district.

Gardner, Trace and Willow Glen elementary schools and River Glen K-8 will continue to offer the program to incoming kindergartners.

As a result, students now can learn in both languages from transitional kindergarten through their senior year of high school if parents also enroll them in participating schools such as Hoover Middle, Willow Glen Middle and Lincoln High.

Transitional kindergarten is for students who miss the Sept. 1 birthday cutoff and won’t turn 5 until later in the year.

A typical day of dual-language instruction is about 80 percent Spanish and 20 percent English.

The program “has become very popular as our parents understand the opportunities available to individuals who are fully literate in more than one language,” said Margaret Petkiewicz, the school district’s manager of elementary bilingual programs and English learner services.

“The other big piece of transitional immersion is that at that age their vocabulary is exploding,” she added. “That vocabulary can expand twofold.”

The hope is that English- and Spanish-speaking children will bounce ideas and language off each other, thus enhancing teachers’ instructions in both languages.

Students as young as 4 and 5 will be able to immerse themselves in Spanish and English in San Jose schools starting this academic year.

An immersion program that teaches students to read, write and communicate in both languages has been expanded to the San Jose Unified School District’s transitional kindergarten classes at Bachrodt Charter Academy, which is open to all students residing in the district.

Gardner, Trace and Willow Glen elementary schools and River Glen K-8 will continue to offer the program to incoming kindergartners.

As a result, students now can learn in both languages from transitional kindergarten through their senior year of high school if parents also enroll them in participating schools such as Hoover Middle, Willow Glen Middle and Lincoln High.

Transitional kindergarten is for students who miss the Sept. 1 birthday cutoff and won’t turn 5 until later in the year.

A typical day of dual-language instruction is about 80 percent Spanish and 20 percent English.

The program “has become very popular as our parents understand the opportunities available to individuals who are fully literate in more than one language,” said Margaret Petkiewicz, the school district’s manager of elementary bilingual programs and English learner services.

“The other big piece of transitional immersion is that at that age their vocabulary is exploding,” she added. “That vocabulary can expand twofold.”

The hope is that English- and Spanish-speaking children will bounce ideas and language off each other, thus enhancing teachers’ instructions in both languages.

CHRISTINA VEIGA: Miami-Dade moves to boost Spanish instruction

Luciana Luquez reads in Spanish in the auditorium at Aventura Waterways K-8 School on May 14, 2015.

C.M. GUERRERO/TMH

The Miami Herald, 08-03-2015

Mark Robson asked for a teacher conference when he became worried about his two sons’ grades in Spanish.

The problem: They were getting straight As at Highland Oaks Elementary.

“Their grades were too good and they didn’t know a lick a Spanish,” he said. “They knew their colors and they knew their numbers, but they didn’t know ‘Hello.’”

As parent demand for foreign language classes grows in Miami-Dade, two dominant issues have emerged: the quality of instruction and a lack of access for all students.

District officials hope to bring solutions in the new school year with a new graduate certificate program for teachers, a $4 million curriculum overhaul and a soon-to-be appointed task force.

“It means we’re addressing the issue,” said Mari Corugedo, a local director for the League of United Latin American Citizens and a Miami-Dade teacher. “Our kids are graduating not knowing a second language, and that’s putting them at a disadvantage.”

Spanish instruction was pushed into the spotlight when the district began phasing out traditional classes, which were treated a bit like electives, about two years ago. Parents complained their kids weren’t learning enough and wanted something more effective.

In place of twice-a-week classes, the district doubled the number of elementary schools with an extended foreign language program. In the EFL program, subjects like math and language arts are taught in Spanish every day.

But a new problem emerged. In a county touted as Latin America’s backyard, the school district struggled to find qualified Spanish teachers. The loss of language is not unique to Miami-Dade; in many immigrant communities, fluency fades with each generation.

Teachers who knew enough Spanish to get by socially were suddenly thrust into an academic setting — without the vocabulary and grammar skills needed in the classroom.

Not only are their language skills sometimes lacking, but elementary teachers in the EFL program don’t need to be certified to teach a foreign language. So they were being asked to teach a subject they had no formal training in.

“An elementary teacher is a generalist. They take a class in math or science but they do not concentrate in one area. So these teachers are not Spanish teachers,” said Beatriz Zarraluqui, a district director of bilingual education in Miami-Dade. “Those are the teachers who have the greatest difficulty.”

A new graduate certificate in partnership with Florida International University has been designed to address these issues. Four of the courses will be taught completely in Spanish to help teachers build fluency in the language. Teachers will also learn how to effectively teach a foreign language.

The program still has to be approved by the school board and FIU. Enrollment will probably start in the fall semester.

Most of the money dedicated to improving Spanish instruction in Miami-Dade will actually go toward buying new textbooks, prompting mixed reactions.

Miami-Dade’s proposed budget includes more than $4 million for a new curriculum tailored for the district. The new books feature “authentic” texts — stories originally written in Spanish — instead of just translations from English.

Assistant Superintendent Maria de Armas said original Spanish content brings an important cultural component to the new curriculum. With texts written by Hispanic authors, students can learn how countries assign different meanings to the same words and explore different cultural norms.

“Our goal is to be bilingual, bicultural,” de Armas said.

Morgan Polikoff , an assistant professor of education at University of Southern California who has studied the use of textbooks, said a new curriculum can be a “very low-cost intervention” to boost student grades.

“We have a good deal of research that materials affect teachers’ instruction and, through that, student achievement,” he wrote in an email.

On the other hand, 20-year Spanish teacher Ingrid Robledo says she only uses her textbook about once a week.

“The textbook that I use is the newspaper, is the radio, is the TV. Everything and anything is a good excuse to expand their literacy,” said Robledo, who teaches at George Washington Carver Middle School. “It’s true books could make a difference, but I truly believe that it makes a difference the approach a teacher is using.”

Robledo says what she does works: almost all her eighth-grade students passed their Advanced Placement tests last school year. What’s important is teaching the language in context, and that takes professional development, she said.

To that end, the district is expanding its teacher training schedules and dedicating additional money for stipends so teachers can attend professional development sessions.

Corugedo, the league of Latin American citizens director and Miami-Dade teacher, called the move “very meaningful.”

Other issues of quality will be addressed through a task force that the district says will be named in the next month. Members are expected to sort through research and best practices to recommend a program that will meet parents’ expectations.

That includes finding a way to balance access for everyone who wants to take Spanish at a time when demand is high.

Gifted kids are shut out of the program. So are students who struggle academically — despite evidence that shows learning another language can boost school performance.

Then there are capacity issues, where some schools don’t have enough students to fill a classroom and justify paying for another teacher. Other schools have waiting lists for their more rigorous programs.

“The main concern, really, is how do we make it available to all students?” Corugedo said. “Now it’s only offered to a very select few, and that’s very worrisome.”

The task force will have its first meeting at the beginning of the school year.

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at MiamiHerald.com/insight.

…….

VERSIÓN ESPAÑOL

Miami-Dade mejorará la enseñanza del español

Mark Robson pidió una reunión de maestros cuando comenzó a preocuparse por las calificaciones de sus dos hijos en la asignatura de Español.

El problema es que sacaban calificaciones de A en la Escuela Primaria Highland Oaks.

“Tenían calificaciones excelentes pero no sabían absolutamente nada de español”, dijo. “Sabían los colores y los números, pero no sabían decir siquiera ‘Hola’ ”.

En momentos que los padres exigen más clases de idiomas en las escuelas de Miami-Dade, han surgido dos grandes preocupaciones: la calidad de la enseñanza y la falta de acceso para todos los alumnos.

Las autoridades del distrito escolar esperan ofrecer soluciones en el nuevo curso escolar con un nuevo programa de certificación para maestros, una modificación del currículo a un costo de $4 millones y un equipo especial que pronto se nombrará.

“Esto significa que estamos abordando el asunto”, dijo Mari Corugedo, directora local de la Liga de Ciudadanos Latinoamericanos Unidos (LULAC) y maestra de Miami-Dade. “Nuestros alumnos se gradúan sin saber otro idioma que no sea inglés, y eso los coloca en desventaja”.

La enseñanza del español se convirtió en un asunto de interés cuando el distrito comenzó a eliminar por fases las clases tradicionales, que eran consideradas asignaturas electivas, hace dos años. Los padres se quejaron de que sus hijos no estaban aprendiendo lo suficiente y querían algo más efectivo.

En lugar de clases dos veces a la semana, el distrito duplicó la cantidad de escuelas primarias con un programa ampliado de idiomas. En el programa EFL, asignaturas como Matemáticas y Lengua se enseñan a diario en español.

Pero entonces surgió otro problema: en un condado que se se considera extremadamente cercano a América Latina, el distrito escolar batalló por encontrar maestros calificados de Español. La pérdida del español no es única de Miami-Dade; en muchas comunidades de inmigrantes el conocimiento de los idiomas maternos se reduce con cada generación.

Los maestros que sabían español suficiente para comunicarse socialmente, de repente tenían la responsabilidad de enseñarlo, sin tener los conocimientos de vocabulario y gramática necesarios para enseñar la materia.

No solamente a veces no tienen los conocimientos de español necesarios, sino que a los maestros de primaria en el programa EFL no se les exige una certificación para enseñar el idioma. Así las cosas, les exigían enseñar un idioma para el que no estaban capacitados formalmente.

“Los maestros de primaria son generalistas. Toman una clase en Matemáticas o Ciencias, pero no se concentran en una materia. Así, los maestros no son especialistas en español”, dijo Beatriz Zarraluqui, directora de Educación Bilingüe en Miami-Dade. “Esos son los maestros que tienen las mayores dificultades”.

Para solucionar la situación se ha creado un nuevo programa de certificación en alianza con la Universidad Internacional de la Florida. Cuatro de los cursos se enseñarán completamente en español para ayudar a los maestros a conocer a fondo el idioma, y les enseñan a impartir el idioma con efectividad.

El programa todavía debe ser aprobado por la Junta Escolar y FIU. Las inscripciones probablemente comiencen en el semestre de otoño.

La mayor parte del dinero dedicado a mejorar la enseñanza del español en Miami-Dade se dedica a comprar nuevos libros de texto, lo que ha provocado reacciones encontradas.

El plan de presupuesto escolar de Miami-Dade incluye más de $4 millones para un nuevo currículo ajustado especialmente para el distrito. Los nuevos libros tienen textos “auténticos”, escritos originalmente en español en vez de ser traducciones del inglés.

La superintendente adjunta María de Armas dijo que los textos originales en español son un un componente cultural importante en el nuevo currículo. Al ser escritos por autores hispanos, los estudiantes pueden aprender cómo los países dan un significado diferente a las mismas palabras y explorar normas culturales.

“Nuestra meta es ser bilingües y biculturales”, dijo De Armas.

Morgan Polikoff , profesor adjunto de Pedagogía en la Universidad del Sur de California, quien ha estudiado el uso de libros de texto, dijo que un nuevo currículo puede ser un “medio de bajo costo” para mejorar las calificaciones de los estudiantes.

“Tenemos una buena cantidad de investigaciones que indican que los materiales influyen sobre el nivel de la enseñanza que imparten los maestros y la calidad de la educación que reciben los estudiantes”, escribió en un correo electrónico.

Por otra parte, Ingrid Robledo, quien lleva 20 años enseñando español, dice que sólo usa sus libros de texto una vez a la semana.

“El libro de texto que yo uso es el periódico, la radio, la televisión. Cualquier cosa es una buena excusa para ampliar los conocimientos”, dijo Robledo, quien enseña en la Escuela Intermedia George Washington Carver. “Es cierto que los libros pueden marcar una diferencia, pero creo con firmeza que el enfoque del maestro también marca una diferencia”.

Robledo dice que su método funciona: casi todos sus alumnos de octavo grado aprobaron el curso pasado las pruebas de Advanced Placement, clases que cuentan como créditos para la universidad. Lo que es importante es enseñar el idioma en su contexto, y para ello hace falta desarrollo profesional, agregó.

Con ese fin, el distrito está ampliando sus cursos de capacitación profesional y dedicando dinero adicional para estipendios, para que los maestros puedan asistir a clases de desarrollo profesional.

Corugedo, la directora de LULAC y maestra de Miami-Dade, que la decisión es “muy significativa”.

ISAÍAS ALVARADO: Más latinos trilingües en Los Ángeles

Mario Argüello tiene el don de lenguas. El chico, de 18 años, habla cinco idiomas.

Mario Argüello, de 18 años, habla cinco idiomas.

La Opinión, 07- 16- 2015

Es la canción infantil del momento, “Let it go” de la película Frozen, pero traducida al mandarin.

No es la primera vez que esta versión musical se escucha en un salón de la secundaria Foshay, en el suroeste de Los Ángeles. Es el método que utiliza la maestra Qin Huang para que sus alumnos, casi todos latinos, aprendan una lengua tan complicada que exige al menos 12 años de estudio.

“Busqué algo que pudieran relacionar y pensé ‘¿por qué no ‘Let it go’ en mandarín?’”, explica.

Deborah López, alumna del grado 11, ha estudiado la lengua por tres años y le fascina pensar que la usará cuando sea una comunicóloga. “Si algún día voy a China me va a servir”, comenta.

Su compañera, Kelsey Ramos, también considera útil el aprendizaje de este idioma asiático. “En el trabajo puedes encontrar a alguien que hable mandarín y le podré entender un poco”, dice.

Un futuro trilingüe

Cada vez más hispanos en escuelas públicas de Los Ángeles practican a nivel avanzado una tercera lengua (además del español que hablan en casa), algo que marcaría el rumbo lingüístico de este país.

“Son el futuro”, dice sobre los latinos trilingües William Chang, representante de la oficina de educación multilingüe y multicultural del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD).

“Si el que habla dos idiomas vale por dos, quien habla tres vale por más”, agrega Chang, un vivo ejemplo de la mezcla cultural en esta ciudad: nació en Taiwán, su padre es chino-peruano, estudió en América Latina y habla español, mandarín, portugués, francés, cantonés y quechua.

Diego Martínez, quien está a punto de graduarse de Foshay, habla español e inglés, y ha estudiado francés por cuatro años. Su próximo reto es el japonés, útil –dice él- en el área tecnológica. “Uno de mis sueños es revolucionar el mundo del vuelo”, señala el hijo de salvadoreños.

Cifras oficiales indican que la educación bilingüe está ganando popularidad en las escuelas públicas de California y los latinos, que suelen conversar en español con sus padres, están eligiendo una tercera lengua (coreano, mandarín, alemán, italiano, francés). Estudiar un idioma extranjero durante al menos dos años es un requisito de graduación.

En 2010, había 10,000 alumnos en programas bilingües, pero en 2014 esa cifra subió a 24,500.

Actualmente más de 160 distritos escolares en California ofrecen esta opción académica.

“Hablar muchos idiomas es algo muy especial y te puede ayudar en la vida”, dice Rocío Padilla, una estudiante de francés que solía despreciar el español. Hoy valora el idioma de sus padres.

Un reciente estudio del Centro Pew concluye que el bilingüismo ha ganado terreno en Estados Unidos. Seis de cada 10 adultos hablan dos lenguas, siendo el español la segunda que más predomina.

HOLA, BONJOUR, HELLO

Mario Argüello tiene el don de lenguas. El chico, de 18 años, habla cinco idiomas. El español se lo heredaron sus padres, el inglés lo recibió en la escuela y desde hace cuatro años practica el francés, pero el italiano y el portugués los aprendió por su cuenta.

“Bonjour. Je parle français, je parle italien…”, saluda en un francés que se le escucha con soltura.

En casa le espera una maleta: él viajará a París para seguir practicando el idioma.

“Me siento bien confiado porque he practicado este idioma por más de cuatro años”, dice.

Argüello, hijo de salvadoreños, cuenta que una maestra le regaló un libro de gramática francesa y así se enamoró del idioma.

Ser políglota, dice, le ayudará en el campo laboral. Quiere ser un enfermero trotamundos.

“Hablar más de dos idiomas será una herramienta para el futuro, para seguir en la carrera que a uno le guste”, comenta el chaval.