Cutting foreign language opportunities in school and downplaying the importance of proficiency in a foreign language greatly diminishes America’s ability to operate in the modern, fast-paced, globalized world.

I think I have said before that the world is shrinking as people move around.  Today rather than town to town they move country to country and not necessarily to the nearest country to themselves it can often be at the opposite side of the world. This news article discusses one persons feeling about this and the role that languages play in communication.

The statements below can apply to the UK and similar countries as well as the USA

It has been a source of pride and a political point for many that English is the “official” language of the United States and those who come to our borders should learn the language. But as a country that wants to continue to be a world leader, we will need to be very serious about pushing our students to be proficient if not fluent in at least two languages.

It is not un-American to be bilingual and it is not a sign of defeat to have bilingual signs. If anything, it makes us stronger as a nation. After neglecting this issue for generations, it is time to turn our educational system around and place learning a foreign language as one of the most important aspects of an education. Learning a foreign language in the United States needs to move out of the “elective” realm and into the realm of “core subject.

To become truly global citizens then language has to have a place in school curriculums and current discussion should be looking at the sort and types of languages that should be supported in schools.  For me the choice is easy support everyone who arrives with a language other than English to keep their previous languages and learn English. For all learners learn at least one language although from my experience the nearer languages are together the better for the learner to realise that each is not something totally new but  connect with each other.

I was lucky in school to learn French, German and Latin which I loved.  The Latin was great because it helped me understand English more. Recently I have done a lot of work in Italian, with an Italian translator, and can immediately see the benefits of learning both languages together and I think it would make learning a  langauge less scary. We should look globally at the languages most needed by global citizens and then find a way of supporting this via school curriculums.

As Adam Hogue says quite succinctly

America is in constant transition. With higher populations of minority groups becoming more dominant in the American landscape, we as a country should be a land of many national languages, not just one. Schools should be moving towards bilingual education in all subjects and students should be able to pursue an education in a variety of languages. Language has the power to change the perception of a person as well as a nation. This should not be forgotten as America continues to define our place in the global landscape.

As I study Hanguel, I am really trying to make up for lost time. I want to pick up a second language with more proficiency than I have in French, a language in which I can only rattle off a few verbs. It is up to the Millennial generation to place foreign language as the centerpiece of American education in the 21st century. Making that change will change other countries’ perception of America and l make America a better place to conduct business and study. Whether it be Mandarin, Vietnamese, French, Spanish,

Hanguel or Indonesian; a foreign language is key in our rapidly globalizing world.

http://www.policymic.com/mobile/articles/16126/why-cutting-foreign-language-classes-in-schools-would-hurt-future-generations-of-americans

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I’m a strong believer of having the kids maintain their first language “I witnessed [my children’s] learning curve and process.… I knew how their experience was with ESOL,” she said. “I think that I knew how to help the kids be successful.”

This is one parents view of how her children learnt English and the subsequent experiences of using these experiences to become an ESOL teacher.  Really interesting are her views that are not dissimilar to many parents but also her view of the types of bilingual education and that every teacher should be an ESOL teacher.

Find it at http://www.nationaljournal.com/thenextamerica/education/maryland-county-is-at-the-intersection-of-diversity-culture-and-language-20120727

When Yu-Ying Huang emigrated from Taiwan in 1989 with her two children, then 7 and 10, she saw firsthand what it was like for students from other lands to learn English, inspiring her career to teach English as a second language.

She’s been teaching ESOL at secondary schools for 12 years, currently at Northwest High School in Silver Spring, Md., part of the Montgomery County Public School system. MCPS arguably touts the most diverse student body in Maryland

“I witnessed [my children’s] learning curve and process.… I knew how their experience was with ESOL,” she said. “I think that I knew how to help the kids be successful.”.

An MCPS student has about a 7-in-10 chance of running into another student of a different race or ethnicity, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Like other school districts across America, MCPS’s diversity is its best asset – but also its biggest challenge.

Resources are tight; budget shortfalls grow more limiting at the same time that diversity grows. Across the nation, educators are expected to shape the minds of more than 49 million kids in an environment where nearly one in five speaks another language at home.

“For us it’s always looking for creative ways to bridge the linguistic divide and to be able to serve students who speak so many different languages,” said Karen Woodson, director for the Division of ESOL/Bilingual Programs.

About a third of the student body identifies as non-Hispanic white; the other two-thirds identify as students of color. Of the more than 146,000 students, 13.1 percent are English speakers of another language. Together, the student body represents 160 countries and 130 languages.

For Huang, the biggest challenge has been to find ways to bridge the culture gap between herself and her students.

It can be a “daily struggle” to find the balance between allowing students to help one another in their native tongue while encouraging social interactions in English, she said. But seeing them making progress makes the effort worth it.

Huang, who speaks fluent Chinese and also Spanish and French, recalled a presentation by students in a Level 4 class, the second-most advanced ESOL tier. Some were students she had taught years before when they couldn’t speak a word of English.

“I was almost crying, because I could see how much progress they had made,” she said, later adding, “I just see that if a kid can put in effort … they can still be successful.”

While students with less English proficiency are taught in a separate class, Woodson emphasized the importance of collaboration between ESOL and mainstream teachers, recognizing that integration of language in classrooms is essential.

As America’s melting-pot tradition increasingly blends more languages and cultures, it’s easy for young students to begin embracing all things English–subsequently risking the loss of their native tongue.

According to a recent survey, two-thirds of Hispanics aged 18 to 29 say they prefer to speak only or mostly in English.

Most of the county’s ESOL students are U.S.-born Spanish speakers, Woodson said.

Huang said she supported her students’ efforts to keep their native language as they learn English.

“I’m a strong believer of having the kids maintain their first language,” she said. “When I teach my own two kids, I do not speak English to them even though they’re here and were learning English. We just keep speaking Chinese at home.”

Educators are quick to mention various studies, which in sum find that bilingual children have more cognition skills, including including logistical thinking and multitasking.

In the battle to preserve heritage, other schools of thought have emerged to teach English-language learners.

Dual-language schools were formed to help ESOL students preserve their native language while giving English-speaking students a chance to become fluent in a second tongue. Supporters maintain that learning in two languages boosts academic achievement, but schools across Maryland have been slow to adopt dual-language programs. Finding only two in the state, a 2009 state task force recommended 10 more programs be created by 2012.

In the MCPS system, Kemp Mill Elementary in Silver Spring is the only school that offers a dual-language program it. It is not part of the county’s ESOL division. Half of its students speak English, while the other half speak Spanish. Instruction is in both languages.

“A lot of people look at bilingual programs in general as being wonderful because they’re helping the student maintain their heritage language,” said Floyd Starnes, the school’s principal. “But what the general public doesn’t know … is that their English is better.”

Critics of the program say that bilingual schools encourage students to rely on their native tongue rather than becoming fluent in English. Some others also say it’s an unnecessary drain from struggling education budgets.

Montgomery County, however, has a unique position as one of the wealthiest counties in the state. Nationally, it slides into 12th place with a median household income of $89,155, according to a D.C. radio station’s breakdown of Census data. (WTOP.)

In contrast, Allegany County in western Maryland has a median household income of $37,083, and to the east, Baltimore City is at $38,186, according to census data.

This past year, MCPS spent $44.5 million, or 2 percent of its budget, on ESOL. It expects to spend about $48.7 million next year, according to the state Office of Management, Budget and Planning.

The combination of a racially diverse population and the county’s affluence is slowly changing the landscape of the suburban county. Woodson says that the ESOL department has noticed, and it’s been making changes in anticipation of growing foreign-born populations and their children.

“They used to say that every teacher is a reading teacher,” Woodson said. “But it’s getting clearer that … every teacher is an ESOL teacher.”

” renewed focus on language skills at school is needed” John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce

Sometimes when engaged purely in Education it is easier to forget the wider world and the wider implications of why were are teaching a particular subject.  I was always aware being a secondary teacher that my students would possibly be working in Design, Programming,Engineering or Architectural type areas, not least because as well as teaching GCSE, A Level there was always NVQ teaching of skills that was part of my teaching role.  However for some they never think beyond the next exam and in primary often thought only about primary tests and not about the whole child and their future prospects.

With that in mind I thought that this information may be of use for those looking outside the box for reasons that languages should be taught and bilingualism and multilingualism should be embraced.

This is current from the Norfolk Chamber of Trade and shares the benefits to businesses about the importance of communicating with exporters in their language. Here is the link to the article:

http://www.norfolkchamber.co.uk/export/export-news/boost-exports-further-improving-businesses-language-skills-and-international

I am pleased that the Primary Languages Classroom Awards supports language developement to enable or children to be able to function on the world’s stage. Below is the article in full.

A survey of over 8,000 businesses released by the British Chambers of Commerce, shows that exporting activity continues to increase. However, the findings also suggest that providing firms with more training in foreign languages, and increasing their exposure to international companies would encourage more business owners to export. Economic growth relies upon British businesses being able to export more, so the British Chambers of Commerce is calling for more support for firms to help them trade internationally.

Language skills are vital to exporting

Knowledge of other languages is an important skill for exporters. 61% of non-exporters that are likely to consider trading internationally consider a lack of language skills as a barrier to doing so.

However, of those business owners that claim some language knowledge, very few can speak well enough to conduct deals in international markets. French is the most commonly spoken language, with 73% of business owners claiming some knowledge. However, only four percent are able to converse fluently enough in French to conduct business deals. This number drops significantly for those languages spoken in the fastest growing markets. In 2012, the IMF projects that the Chinese economy will grow by 9.5%, but just four percent of business owners claim any knowledge of the language, with less than one percent confident they could converse fluently.

Re-establishing foreign languages as core subjects within the UK national curriculum and in workplace training would mean that the next generation of business owners are ‘born global’ with language skills. The BCC is calling for the National Curriculum to be revised so that studying a foreign language is compulsory until AS level. Businesses could also be helped in training staff in new languages, if the government offered additional financial incentives such as tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses that make a significant investment in language training.

Businesses with stronger international connections are more likely to export

Businesses that do export are more likely to have stronger social connections with overseas markets. When asked what led them to export, the top three reasons cited by current exporters were:  collaboration with overseas partners (71%); a chance enquiry from outside the UK (57%); and previous work experience abroad (52%). Those business owners that have lived abroad are more likely to export. 11% of current exporters have lived aboard for five years or more.

The BCC believes that creating opportunities for employees to work in overseas companies could help expose firms to more international opportunities. For example, an international business exchange programme, perhaps modeled on the well-known academic Erasmus scheme would allow employees to complete placements in companies abroad, and bring back their experience to their employer. A scheme that covered BRIC economies, as well as Europe, would mean that businesses could take advantage of fast growing markets as well as the eurozone.

Commenting on the findings of the report, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Exporting is good for Britain, so it is right that we should encourage current and future business owners to develop the necessary skills to trade overseas. We’re encouraged to see the percentage of firms exporting in our survey has increased from 22% in January 2011 to 32% in January 2012. Exports are equivalent to nearly 30% of UK GDP[1], but more can be done to help businesses take the first step to exporting. Encouraging companies to boost foreign language skills with incentives like tax credits is just one way of making sure we continue to export best of British products and services around the world. A renewed focus on language skills at school, as well as helping companies forge new connections overseas, could help ensure that current and future business owners are pre-disposed to thinking internationally.

“We are already the sixth largest trading nation on earth, and the third largest service exporter, but to really secure our future as a leading exporter we need to help companies take advantage of new markets. Giving businesses the opportunity to forge links with international firms, develop employees’ language skills, and providing compulsory education in languages for young people will transform many of the great businesses we have in the UK into success stories overseas.”

 

What’s the point of the question? Were you testing her ability to count or speak English? – USA

This was a parents response to a teacher when the  child was asked to count to twenty. The child did so in Spanish and was marked as wrong. It begs the debate I often have with those who do not understand bilingualism what are you testing? Was your assessment criteria flawed? Did the child understand that they had to respond in English?

No one is blaming the teacher it is just a change in the way we view things.  In mine and the parents case any previous knowledge in whatever language it was demonstrated in is fine. As in my opinion they will pick up English as they go along, but pretending they have no prior learning eats away at their confidence and self-esteem daily.

Hursh helped the teacher see that she was ignoring the knowledge the child did have. Still, Hursh understands that teacher’s perspective.

“Before coming to Erikson, I would have thought the same thing: I have to get these children speaking English. Now, I’m confident that they’ll pick it up. In the meantime, I want to support them in what they are able to do.”

Meléndez agrees with this balanced perspective. “Of course, dual language learners need to learn English if they are to succeed in school and life, but the acquisition of their second language does not have to mean the loss of their first.”

If you want to read the rest of this there are some extracts below and the original can be found at http://www.erikson.edu/default/news/news.aspx?c=6054

Susan Pryor, M.S. ’09, a kindergarten teacher at Erie, leads her class’s chant:

Donde quiera que vamos Todos nos preguntan ¿Quien somos? Y decimos Somos Loyola, los niños de Loyola. ¡Hola!

Erie is a bilingual charter school predominantly serving Latino students in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The kindergarteners call themselves “children of Loyola,” because every classroom at Erie is named after a different university — a nod to the school’s goal of putting all students on the path to higher education.

“The commitment to graduating college-bound, bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural students is held by everyone, the teachers, the administration, the board,” says Pryor. “Everyone is on the same page.”

Erie, which partners with Erikson’s New Schools Project, is a model of bilingual education. However, there is no school system-wide commitment to high-quality biliteracy. Erikson seeks to change this by developing policies, practices, and teacher preparation programs to help meet these students’ unique needs.

DLL education in Illinois

In Illinois, nearly 8 percent of students are dual language learners (DLL), learning a home language and English simultaneously. The default program for educating them is a transitional bilingual program, which is designed to make non-English-speaking students proficient in English by third grade, when they first take the ISAT, or Illinois Standard Achievement Test. In this approach, the student’s native language is not supported beyond the transitional period.

 

The biggest thing teachers and administrators need to understand is the better a child learns his first language, the better he’ll learn his second language.”

Children are often rushed into learning English in the classroom, according to Meléndez, and parents are sometimes encouraged by teachers to speak English at home — even when they themselves have a limited command of the language.

“This causes many problems. The children start picking up their parents’ limited use of English, which isn’t accepted at school, but much worse is that their limited vocabulary keeps conversations to superficial exchanges. Their ability to have rich discussions and express abstract ideas is greatly diminished — a huge loss at that age.”

Perhaps most damaging, children whose native language is not supported may lose their ability to speak it. For immigrants, this may disconnect them from their family and their culture. In a short time, children could find that they are unable to communicate with their grandparents or interact when they visit their native country. This also wastes students’ bilingualism, which is something many English-speaking students strive to gain in their education.

Dawn Hursh, BESL ’11

“I’m always on my soapbox about dual language learners,” she admits, laughing. She recounts debating a teacher who had asked her students to count to 20. When one girl recited her numbers in Spanish, the teacher marked the response as incorrect.

“Later, I asked her, ‘What’s the point of the question? Were you testing her ability to count or speak English?’”

Hursh helped the teacher see that she was ignoring the knowledge the child did have. Still, Hursh understands that teacher’s perspective.

“Before coming to Erikson, I would have thought the same thing: I have to get these children speaking English. Now, I’m confident that they’ll pick it up. In the meantime, I want to support them in what they are able to do.”

Meléndez agrees with this balanced perspective. “Of course, dual language learners need to learn English if they are to succeed in school and life, but the acquisition of their second language does not have to mean the loss of their first.”

 

How would you feel if you could not communicate?

I empathise with this totally. I often hear people being disparaging about translations, interpretations and the irony is that whether using human or machine translations/interpretations or not they miss the point that communication is happening at the right level and at the right time. This at the end of the day is the most important thing for children and adults in classroom situations. For frontline officers in council offices, general offices, police, health authorities if you are the person at the desk and do not speak the language you immediately feel small and helpless. At this point help for both parties is required. This reminds me did you hear R2 a few weeks ago when John Foxwell from EMASUK talked about their hand held translator – wouldn’t it be good in these situations?

http://www.emasuk.com/page/eal/207/products–i-can-talk-to–brand-new