EDO-FL-00-01 APRIL 2000
Promoting a Language Proficient Society: What You Can Do
KATHLEEN M. MARCOS AND JOY KREEFT PEYTON, ERIC CLEARINGHOUSE ON LANGUAGES AND LINGUISTICS Interest in and support for language study has been strengthened in the United States in recent years by the growing recognition that proficiency in more than one language benefits both individual learners and society. For the individual language learner, research has found a positive link between second language proficiency and cognitive and academic ability. Several studies indicate that individuals who learn a second language are more creative and better at solving complex problems than those who do not (Bamford & Mizokawa, 1991). Other studies correlate bilingual proficiency with higher scores on standardized tests and tests of both verbal and nonverbal intelligence (Caldas & Boudreaux, 1999; Hakuta, 1986; Thomas, Collier, & Abbott, 1993). A multilingual workforce enhances America’s economic competitiveness abroad, helps maintain our political and security interests, and promotes tolerance and intercultural awareness. Although the opportunities that are available for learning languages may vary depending on where you live in the United States, there are many things you can do to encourage the study of languages in your home, your classroom, or your community, whether you live in a small town or a major metropolitan area. This digest suggests specific ways that parents, teachers, school administrators, policymakers, and members of the business community can foster the learning of languages among children and adults.
What Can Teachers Do?
• Find out which languages are spoken by school staff, by students, and in the community at large. Speak with parents and administrators about options for using community resources to promote language and cultural awareness among students. • Use resources from school and local libraries and from the Internet to enhance foreign language lessons. • Set up an in-class lending library with foreign language books, magazines, and videotapes for students and parents to use. • Align your foreign language curriculum with the national standards for foreign language learning. • Plan activities that encourage students to develop an awareness and appreciation of the linguistic and cultural diversity represented in your classroom. • Give your students opportunities to use their languages outside your classroom (for example, within your school, at other schools, or at community events or agencies). • Encourage parents who speak a language other than English to use it with their children. • Talk to parents about activities and study habits that can improve their children’s language learning. • Invite community members who use languages other than English in their careers to discuss career opportunities with middle and high school students. • Collaborate with other foreign language, bilingual, and English as a second language teachers to share resources and work together toward common goals. • Pursue professional development activities (attend conferences, read journals and newsletters, take courses and seminars) to keep up to date on language learning research and on new approaches to language teaching. • Travel abroad to expand or update your knowledge of the language and culture.
What Can Parents Do?
• Expose your children to people from varied language and cultural backgrounds. • Participate in events where language and cultural diversity are celebrated. • If you speak a language other than English, use it with your children. • Speak positively to your children about the value of learning another language. • Provide videos, music, and books in other languages. • Send your children to summer language camps. For older children, consider programs in which they can study languages abroad.
• Explore having an exchange student from another country in • Keep up with advances in language learning...
References: • Budget adequate financial resources to establish and improve secBamford, K.W., & Mizokawa, D.T. (1991). Additive-bilingual ond language programs in your school, district, or state. (immersion) education: Cognitive and language development. • Support and fund professional development programs for second Language Learning, 41, 413-429. language teachers. • Support and fund curriculum development projects carried out Caldas, S.J., & Boudreaux, N. (1999). Poverty, race, and foreign language immersion: Predictors of math and English language arts by second language teachers. performance. Learning Languages, 5, 4-15. • Establish policies that promote the study of second languages at Hakuta, K. (1986). Mirror of language. New York: Basic Books. all levels by all students. • Support research on the effectiveness of various models and prac- Thomas, W.P., Collier, V.P., & Abbott, M. (1993). Academic achievetices for second language programs. ment through Japanese, Spanish, or French: The first two years of partial immersion. Modern Language Journal, 77, 170-180. • Support the establishment of standards for and assessment of student and teacher performance at local, state, and national levels.
This digest was prepared with funding from the U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Library of Education, under contract no. ED-99-CO-0008. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of ED, OERI, or NLE. ERIC CLEARINGHOUSE ON LANGUAGES AND LINGUISTICS • TOLL-FREE PHONE 800-276-9834 • E-MAIL ERIC@CAL.ORG • WWW.CAL.ORG/ERICCLL
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