Archive for the 'Foreign Language Instruction' Category

Jan 24 2005

A Language-Challenged U.S.

Last year, leaders from business and government agencies met in Maryland to address the extraordinary demand for employees who speak foreign languages. You can bet they weren’t looking for French or German speakers. They need Mandarin, Korean and Arabic.

So while educators seriously debate whether sign-language classes should count as a foreign language, as The Times reported last week, they bypass the real issue: Tant pis, American public schools are desperately behind the times when it comes to teaching languages. With few exceptions, they offer the same European triumvirate as 50 years ago — Spanish, French and German — and start teaching languages far too late.

The big three account for 94% of all students learning a foreign language, according to a 2002 report by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Add Latin and Italian and it becomes 98%. Practically no one is learning languages from Asia, Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Salaam, or in its cousin language, shalom, anyone?

Linguist Benjamin Whorf wrote nearly a century ago that culture shapes language. Thus, through studying language, students gain insight into another way of thinking. Language skills lead to better-paying jobs and, in poly-cultural L.A., help us all communicate better, ja?

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Jan 21 2005

Is This the End of the Language Class?

When language has to be learned with a conscious cognitive effort we talk about language learning, which is, in a way, an unnatural way to learn a language. Language exposure is restricted to specific hours on specific days; learning is conscious and usually requires serious cognitive effort, mainly focused on learning about the target language. When the learner leaves the class, there is little or no exposure to the target language. When English is learned in Turkey, Israel or even in Norway, this is usually what happens.

Clil programmes, whether they are extensive or limited, aim at causing language acquisition to take place (the natural way) in a foreign setting (which would usually require language learning) by teaching in the target language, thus creating a target language environment within the environment of another language. This is, as I see it, an attempt to transform an unnatural way of learning a language into the natural way of acquiring languages.

The research literature presents evidence in favour and against Clil, but what do students think? They are, after all, the ones who need to experience the gains and the losses.

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Jan 21 2005

A Celebration of Language

Bonne Année! Chestita Nova Godina! Glückwunsch zum NeuJahr! Are we confused yet? Are we suffering from paralytic monolingualism?

If so, take heart. You’re not the only one. Those of us past the age of 25 really struggle with any language other than English.

The younger generation — high schoolers and younger — are enjoying more world language classes than ever.

They are studying Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Korean, Japanese in addition to the standard Spanish, French and German that we older folks had access to during our teens.

To celebrate this important change, thanks to an initiative sponsored by Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, language education programs throughout our country are celebrating 2005 as the Year of Languages (YOL)

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Jan 18 2005

Parenting Foreign Language

Unlike kids in El Paso, children across the county seldom have the opportunity to learn a second language while in elementary school. Many educators believe that it’s more important than ever to teach young students about other cultures, and that includes foreign language instruction. In our Parenting Report, we visit a group of second graders learning Spanish.

Research says children are best able to absorb a second language before puberty, when the linguistic area of the brain becomes less receptive. In fact, recent findings are part of the reason nearly 1/3 of elementary schools offer students exposure to some kind of foreign language.

Children who have early exposure to languages also have enhanced overall mental development and an appreciation of other cultures. Yet starting a language early doesn’t mean learning it better. Teenagers and other late starters can become just as fluent, though the learning process may be more difficult. If your school does not offer a foreign language, there are still other ways to expose your child. Seek out bilingual kids or adults for talk dates. Hook your child up with a foreign pen pal at a website such as e-pals.com. Or get foreign language books, videos and audio cassettes.

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Note: See the Linguistic Solutions Resources page for other foreign language instruction resources.

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Jan 18 2005

Global Survey of Recruiters Reveals Demand for Multi-Language Capabilities Among Senior Executives Will Increase

Bilingualism is Already ‘Critical’ to Success in Europe, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, and is of Growing Importance in North America

The ability to speak more than one language is critical to succeed in business in Europe, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, according to nearly nine out of ten (88 percent) executive recruiters from those regions who completed the sixth edition of the quarterly Executive Recruiter Index. The survey was released today by Korn/Ferry International (NYSE: KFY – News), the premier provider of executive search and leadership development solutions.

Nearly 85 percent of recruiters in Europe, 88 percent of recruiters in Asia and 95 percent of recruiters in Latin America either “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that being at least bilingual is critical to succeed in today’s business environment. Among recruiters in North America, that percentage was just 34 percent.

Despite these regional differences, recruiters everywhere agreed that in ten years, it will be “more important than today” for executives to be at least bilingual (Europe – 74 percent; Asia – 72 percent; Latin America – 79 percent; North America – 66 percent). They also reported there is a “significant competitive advantage” for executives who are multilingual – i.e., speak more than two languages fluently (Europe – 66 percent; Asia – 52 percent; Latin America – 79 percent; North America – 49 percent).

In terms of which foreign language capabilities are in most frequent demand by employers, recruiters in Asia, Europe and Latin America overwhelmingly chose English when asked to pick up to three languages (88 percent). Recruiters in North America selected Spanish (79 percent), French (43 percent) and Mandarin Chinese (30 percent)

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Jan 14 2005

Tribal Voices Rise Again

Chitimacha lost its last fluent speaker in 1940. That year might have marked the end of the language had it not been for a group of government ethnographers who recorded and studied Chitimacha speakers in the early 20th century – and a small group now determined to revive the language.

“There was a movement to document endangered languages, and we just got lucky,” said Chitimacha Tribe Cultural Director Kim Walden.

The Chitimacha language, believed to have been spoken for 7,000 years, was the victim of the countless indignities suffered by Native Americans across the country during forced assimilation.

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Jan 13 2005

Tsinghua University’s WECL English Education Program Will Use SET-5 and SET-10 Spoken English Tests

Spoken English tests from Ordinate Corp., the leading provider of automated spoken language assessments, will be a standard component of the curriculum of Tsinghua University’s World Exchange College of Language (WECL) English Education Program.

Tsinghua University is often considered to be the top technical university in China. WECL offers English immersion language instruction at Tsinghua and at other locations in China, including Beijing International Studies University, Yantai University and Xiamen WECL English College. WECL English College will use Ordinate's SET-5 and SET-10 spoken English tests for placement and exit testing of all of their students.

The SET-10 and SET-5 tests are fully automated 10- and five-minute tests of English speaking and listening abilities. Both tests are administered over the telephone and scored by the Ordinate testing system. Score reports are provided online, typically within minutes after the test taker has completed the test.

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Jan 10 2005

Health Care Workers Needed Who Can Cross Cultural and Linguistic Barriers

Once again, job seekers can look forward to prosperity in the biggest U.S. industry – health care.

Advances in medical technology are propelling a longevity and wellness revolution. In turn, the hiring climate heralds a robust 2005 for those who can deliver much-needed services.

“Health care workers are in demand, and they know it,” said a Career Builder.com quarterly employment forecast. “More than 300,000 jobs have been created in health care in the last year, with more on the way.”

A 2004 nationwide survey shows a $24.16 average hourly wage – almost a 20 percent jump from $21.26 in 2001.

Statistics like these should encourage more minorities to go into nursing and other medical fields, according to a diversity study released in February by Washington’s Institute of Medicine. Latinos represent 12 percent of the U.S. population but only 2 percent of registered nurses.

Brian Smedley, the institute’s senior program officer and the study’s director, said more workers are needed who can cross cultural and linguistic barriers.

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Jan 03 2005

Chinese Buyer of PC Unit Is Moving to I.B.M.’s Hometown

These days, every employee here gets a birthday gift, something a multinational company might be expected to do in this age of feel-good corporate management.

The problem is that people in China do not traditionally celebrate birthdays.

But that is changing. And so is Lenovo. It is trying to become a global company with its purchase of I.B.M’s personal computer business for $1.75 billion, and handing out birthday cakes is just part of the process of evolving into a multinational corporation.

To further globalize the company, however, Lenovo will do something even bolder: it will move its headquarters to Armonk, N.Y., where I.B.M. is based, and essentially hand over management of what will become the world’s third-largest computer maker, after Dell and Hewlett-Packard, to a group of senior I.B.M. executives.

American multinational companies outsource manufacturing to China. Why can’t a Chinese company outsource management to the United States?

Preparations are already under way in Beijing. For the last few months, all vice presidents have been required to study English for at least one hour a day. The chairman says he has read books about Bill Gates and Andrew Grove. And the chief executive of Lenovo has agreed to give up day-to-day management of the company to assume the role of chairman.

Lenovo’s challenge will be to meld radically different corporate cultures.

“Neither culture should be the de facto culture,” said Martin Gilliland, an analyst at Gartner Research. “They have to start a new one. Can they develop a new Lenovo business culture? That’s one of the keys to success.”

And the new language for the company is English, company officials say.

Lenovo officials say they are studying American business history, and the chief executive lists The Harvard Business Review as part of his regular reading.

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Hat tip: Going Global

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Jan 03 2005

Learn English, Says Chile, Thinking Upwardly Global

In many parts of Latin America, resistance to cultural domination by the United States is often synonymous with a reluctance to learn or speak English. But here, where Salvador Allende was once a beacon for the left, the current Socialist-led national government has begun a sweeping effort to make this country bilingual.

Chile already has the most open, market-friendly economy in Latin America, and the language plan is seen as advancing that process.

The initial phase of the 18-month-old program, officially known as “English Opens Doors,” calls for all Chilean elementary and high school students to be able to pass a standardized listening and reading test a decade from now. But the more ambitious long-term goal is to make all 15 million of Chile’s people fluent in English within a generation.

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Hat tip: Going Global

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Dec 31 2004

Demand for Arabic Language Education Rises in United States

Arabic, now designated a “strategic” language by the U.S. government, faces unprecedented demand for instruction in schools across America, from kindergarten upwards. Not long ago, Middle Eastern languages comprised only 2 percent of all foreign language classes in the United States, led by Hebrew. Then, a Modern Language Association survey revealed a 92 percent rise in Arabic enrollments between 1998 and 2002 — to 10,600.

While there’s buzz about the high demand for Arabic linguists, the real story lies beyond the headlines. Besides the dramatic rise in Arabic enrollments, government and education leaders are intensely collaborating to foster earlier and sustained study, to build Arabic language capacity and cross-cultural understanding in the United States.

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Dec 22 2004

Marco Polo Program Cements Italo-Chinese Academic Ties

Italy has taken another step forward in fostering good relations with emerging economic superpower China via a new program for academic cooperation, Italian media reported on Wednesday.

The Marco Polo program, sponsored by Italy’s powerful industrial employers’ association Confindustria, sets up a system for “stable relations” between Chinese and Italian universities.

The agreement is the fruit of Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi’s trip to the oriental country earlier in the month, which was aimed at promoting economic and cultural ties between the countries.

Marco Polo will provide a platform for the management of joint research projects.

Offices in both countries will also be set up for the coordination of academic exchanges involving researchers and lecturers – all of which will be supported by intensive foreign language instruction programs.

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Dec 20 2004

Inglés Sin Barreras

Lexicon Marketing, developer and marketer of Inglés sin Barreras, a video-based English learning program, has increased its advertising investment from $12.56 to $75.00 million in little over a year, and is now challenging the venerable Procter & Gamble for the top [advertiser in the Hispanic market] position.

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Dec 20 2004

High Pay, High Demand for Foreign Language Speakers, but Schools Cut Language Instruction

Funding cuts and changes in education policies have led to a sharp reduction in the number of Americans studying foreign languages at the same time the government and business are demanding more employees with language skills.

[The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages] quoted the American Council on Education as saying overall foreign language enrollment in U.S. higher education fell from16 percent of students 1960 to 8 percent in 2002.

“Fewer than 1 percent of American graduate students are studying languages deemed by the federal government to be critical to national security,” said Keith Cothrun, a German teacher and ACTFL president, at a briefing at the National Press Club.

A 2002 survey by Health Companies International, a research firm, showed that Americans business executives had the lowest average number of languages spoken – 1.4. In the Netherlands, that number was 3.9, followed by Sweden at 3.4 and Brazil at 2.9. Just above the United States at the bottom of the list of 18 countries were three other English-speaking countries: the United Kingdom (1.5), New Zealand (1.6) and Canada (1.8).

The U.S. government needs 34,000 employees with foreign language skills in 80 agencies, according to ACTFL. A 2002 Government Accountability Office study found that the Army had serious shortfalls of translators and interpreters in five of six critical languages – Arabic, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Persian-Farsi and Russian.

Web sites for the Transportation Security Administration, Homeland Security Department and a government-wide job site list vacancies in those categories that pay from $80,000 to $90,000 per year.

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Dec 13 2004

Georgia’s Emergency Services Evolve as Hispanic Numbers Rise

As Georgia’s Hispanic population continues to soar, more emergency-service providers are learning Spanish.

And buying into translation services to bridge language barriers that can easily pop up in a life-or-death situation.

From crash-course classes in “Survival Spanish” to pay-by-the-minute translators who work in tandem with 911 operators, Georgia’s first responders are seeking ways to assist the state’s fastest growing minority population during times of crisis.

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