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About Teaching Critical Languages (LCTLs)
Critical Languages
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Language Policy
Reports and Publications
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Training Materials

Arabic K-12 Project

The NCLRC Arabic K-12 Project is for teachers, administrators, foreign language professionals, researchers, parents and anyone interested in the teaching of Arabic K-12 in the U.S. See more information on this project. For the latest list of teacher and student resources, updated weekly, see our Arabic News page.

Critical Languages

May - June 2014

LCTL: Let's Collaborate to Teach Languages 
Greta Lundgaard,
Plano Independent School District

Visualize this image: a rubber raft hurtles down a rapidly flowing river swollen by spring rains and snow melt. Rocks and boulders lurk just below the surface and along the shoreline, and the faces of the occupants of the raft show anxiety, nervousness, and fear. Who would imagine going on a white water rafting trip alone? No river guide, no fellow oarsmen, only a life jacket to cling to in the event of a dunking Read more... (PDF)

November - December 2013

Why I Teach to the Test 
Rich Robin,
The George Washington University

At the dawn of proficiency-based language testing in American academia, in the mid-1980s, I stood up at a presentation on Oral Proficiency Interviews and admitted that I teach to this test. I said that I taught OPI strategies explicitly. It was, I argued, a language teacher's duty to help students "beat the test." I was booed for advocating such subversive practices. After all, the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines gave us for the first time a common yardstick for measuring language proficiency. It promised to usher in not only a uniform way of looking at language learners' progress but also a powerful motivator to change people's thinking about curricular planning, classroom pedagogy, and realistic expectations. Why would a teacher, especially a newly minted certified tester, work at cross-purposes to the test? Read more... (PDF)

September - October 2013

Making Students Proficient in Hindi 
Arum Prakash,,
Houston, TX Independent School District

Hindi is a critical need language in America and it is easy to learn if proper learning techniques are applied. … Teaching Hindi is my passion. My teaching strategies are to help students become more proficient in Hindi quickly and easily. This objective is achieved by integrating the 5 C's (Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons, & Communities) in well-structured lesson plans and activities:

Learning a second language should be a fun-filled and stress-free experience. … I give importance to conversation over reading and writing. … In Elementary and Intermediate Hindi each unit covers a theme. … Proficiency in conversation is attained by repetitive practice in small groups and script presentations over a period of time. Pictures of related vocabulary and multi-media are an integral part of teaching. It is so [successful] that a number of students are inspired to study Hindi beyond secondary education. Read more... (PDF)

May - June 2013

booksIn Search of the Perfect Book: 
Using Authentic Literature in K-8 LCTL Classes

Jessica Haxhi,
AATJ Co-President - Maloney Magnet Elementary School, Waterbury CT

It seems so simple.  Authentic children’s books are a rich source of culture and authentic language at a level that is accessible to beginners in LCTL classes.  We should be using authentic literature to build activities that support Common Core English Language Arts Standards. Yet, it seems there are few books that fit into our curriculum, match our students’ language levels (especially reading), have engaging storylines, and are just “perfect” for teaching LCTLs.  In this article, we’ll look at the factors to consider when searching for the perfect book, suggest ways to use those less-than-perfect books you’ve collected over the years, and offer activities to support Common Core ELA Standards with the perfect books in your collection.

Choosing books for LCTL Classes
For many years, I purchased books online or grabbed them quickly at Tokyo bookstores only to discover that they just didn’t “work” with students.  I finally learned that you must read a book a few times in person to make sure that it has one or all of the following elements:


  • A good story, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.  The theme and pictures in the book must be school-appropriate (ask a colleague if you aren’t sure).
  • A good ratio of words to pictures.  Pictures make the book comprehensible.
  • Excellent illustrations that are large and clear and match the words on that page.
  • Familiar and predictable context or at least one that students can figure out as the book goes along.
  • Repetition. The best books for beginning students repeat a structure or pattern on almost every page. By the end, students learn that pattern or expression and repeat along with you.
  • Students should not understand every word in the book, but there should be vocabulary and characters/letters that they are able to decipher, even if it is just a few.  It is much more important that the book itself is comprehensible and enjoyable.

”Goaisatsu Asobi” is a perfect book! The pages are animals that bow and say “Konnichiwa.” Culture plus language! Click the image to view on Amazon Japan.


  • The book relates exactly to a unit in your curriculum and/or a language structure you are teaching.
  • The story can be acted out.
  • The story is supported by related songs, poems, video versions, stuffed animal goods, etc. from the target culture.

(Concepts from Curtain & Dahlberg, pp. 73 & 340 and Sandrock, p. 81)

What about all those “less-than-perfect” books?
Books that do not fulfill all of the requirements listed above are still a treasure of culture and language for students.  Even if students cannot read well in your LCTL yet, they can use the books for these activities:

Comprehension Paper – Book Level:  Create a half-size paper such as this one.

Comprehension Paper- Word Level:  for each book, create a small interaction paper that students can fill out as they read it.  List 10 words for them to search for in the book.  Depending on their language level, they can write the page number they find each word on, copy the sentence the word is in, or try to figure out the meaning of the word.  You could also have them count how many times they find different words in the book.

Free Voluntary Reading – Stephen Krashen has noted the many benefits of Free Voluntary Reading time for students in language classes (  Keep a library of books in your classroom and allow students to choose their own books for free reading time (without completing any assignment).

And if you find the “perfect” book?
The perfect book can be used to create a variety of activities to support Common Core English Language Arts standards (see the 3rd grade Reading and Speaking and Listening for instant ideas).  

Strategy Instruction in English
I try to use the target language 95% of the time in my Japanese classes, but lately I have started to see the merits of strategy instruction in English when students are reading or listening to longer texts.  See a list of the strategies we discuss here.

Target Language Instruction
After strategy instruction, you should need very little English to help students enjoy and learn from the “perfect” book.  Based on the book, you can do pre-reading, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing activities practicing all three modes of communication.  For a description of these activities see this document.

Visit for more resources and a list of great books for teaching LCTLs.  If you would like to contribute to the list, please contact me at  See below for more resources on using all of the books in your library.  Enjoy!

(additional references on individual PDFs)

Curtain, Helena Anderson, and Carol Ann Dahlberg. "Building toward Communication in All Three Modes." Languages and children: language instruction for an early start, grades K-8. 4th ed. Boston, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon ;, 2009. 73 & 340. Print.
Krashen, Stephen. "Free Voluntary reading: New Research, Applications, and Controversies." Books and Articles by Stephen D Krashen. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2013. <>.
Sandrock, Paul. "Impacting Instruction and Program Articulation Through Performance Assessments." The keys to assessing language performance: a teacher's manual for measuring student progress. Alexandria, VA: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 2010. 81. Print.
MLA formatting by



January - February 2013

Using Technology to Connect World Languages to Other Disciplines
Laura Franklin, Ph.D., Professor, Northern Virginia Community College, Alexandria Virginia

"The conscious effort to connect the foreign language curriculum with other parts of students' academic lives opens doors to information and experiences which enrich the students' entire school and life experience.” These connections flow from other areas to the foreign language classroom and also originate in the foreign language classroom to add unique experiences and insights to the rest of the curriculum."  (Excerpted from  Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century,  2006.)


Connections, the third of the Five C's of the Standards for Language Learning, is one of the lesser-implemented of the Standards after Communication and Culture, perhaps because language educators feel required to spend more time with language skills during the limited time they have with their students. However the linguistic benefit provided by language exchange opportunities that connect students with the world around them cannot be denied. Including authentic target language materials from other disciplines constitutes an effective strategy in the development of advanced language proficiency and both cultural and geographical awareness. Student access to authentic target language materials reinforces both the language and the content learned.  It helps students develop an informed worldview and piques their interest in establishing contact with peers from other lands.

By teaching the vocabulary to discuss global warming and phenomena such as hurricanes, cyclones and earthquakes, students develop empathy and understanding of the struggles and the triumphs of their peers.  This very human experience of solidarity can lead to authentic communication and lasting friendships.

The following are some examples of free online materials that can be used to connect languages to other disciplines:

Math and the Khan Academy

Everyone has heard of Salman Khan and the flipped classroom, but did you know that many of the modules on the Khan Academy website in biology, physics and many types of math can be instantly translated into other languages by simply scrolling to the bottom of the page and changing the language? Certain video lessons have been recorded completely in the target language by native speakers, while others are subtitled in the L2.  Watching an equation unfold in another language can be an engaging cultural experience and classroom conversation topic. Students can view a few videos and then practice doing their own exercises using the terminology they hear in the Khan videos.


The following screen shot depicts a directory of all the Khan Academy videos available in Portuguese. Many other languages are available by scrolling down on the home page and selecting the desired target language.


Salman Khan explains Les Miserables with subtitles in Arabic. (Other languages available)


Students of Arabic can enjoy a Khan lecture on Les Miserables subtitled in Arabic and then make their own target-language Khan Academy-style videos of a historical event or literary masterpiece that they are studying in school.

The Khan Academy website has many videos that can be viewed in different languages, like this one on Photosynthesis.


The above lesson on photosynthesis, narrated in Portuguese, is a suitable text for listening comprehension and the review of scientific terms in the L2. This activity connects language study to other disciplines in a simple and engaging format. It can be accessed in class and repeated in lab or at home. Students can stop and rewind and proceed at their own pace. It is a good example of brain-compatible learning appealing to a variety of learning styles.

DNA from the Beginning

From the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, DNA from the Beginning is a website that contains Biology modules that may be translated into many languages including Danish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese:


Student to Student Language Exchange Using Technology and the iEarn Collaboration Centre


Communicative Internet-based projects such as  the ones described in the iEarn Collaboration Centre, allow students to collaborate on civics, science and history  projects in the target language with e-pals from countries where the L2 is spoken. Teachers, parents and students can all learn from the exchanges between classrooms that are many physical miles away from each other.

Boasting 2 million+ exchanges to date, students can do projects where each classroom plants the same kind of seeds (daffodils and tulips) and they plot plant growth and share progress via email, websites or images. There are civic projects where they investigate environmental issues like global warming, desertification, health issues and other concerns. There is a Local History project where they share information about their communities.  These L2 assignments make an obvious connection to other disciplines.

The Mixxer


The Mixxer is a free website that allows students to practice language with a peer who is a native speaker of their target language. They trade conversation in their respective languages via Skype. It is possible for instructors to participate as a class or to have students sign up directly through the Mixxer. Originating from Dickinson College Pennsylvania, the Mixxer is a serious language exchange project that is well-moderated.  Topics for discussion could be strategically content-based and include natural sciences, social sciences and fine arts among other disciplines:

For additional “Connections” activities, please click here.



National Standards in Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. Lawrence, KS, Allen press (2006)

DNA from the Beginning.  Accessed at:

iEarn Collaboration Center.  Accessed at:

The Khan Academy:  Accessed at:

The Mixxer Language Exchange: Accessed at:


Nov/Dec 2012

Teaching Strategic Reading for CSL Leaners
Ruyu Li
George Washington University Graduate Student

Mandarin Chinese is one of the daily languages of the people who live in Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore and the overseas Chinese communities. Recently more and more Chinese language programs are emerging in K-12 schools and colleges. Based on the characteristics of the Chinese writing system, this article offers some suggestions for Chinese as Second Language (CSL) reading instruction.

Characteristics of the Chinese Writing System
Chinese is a non-Roman logographic script, which contains approximately 7,000 distinct morphemes. The basic unit of representation of Chinese is the character (漢字 [汉字] hànzì), which corresponds to a single syllable morpheme rather than a phoneme. There are approximately 700 phonetic radicals and about 140 semantic radicals currently in use. Integrating two of those radicals, which provide either phonetic or semantic information to form semantic-phonetic compounding, is, by far, the most dominant method. It is used in the vast majority (roughly 80%-90%) of multiple-unit characters (Perfetti, C. A., & Liu,Y., 2006). The diverse combination of characters forms different words, which makes the Chinese language changeable and varied.

There are two versions of Chinese characters, one simplified and one traditional. Typically, simplified characters require fewer strokes than traditional characters. There are 2,238 simplified characters out of approximately 7,000 characters that are used by educated native speakers of Chinese (DeFrancis, 1984). The use of simplified characters is common on Mainland China, but traditional characters prevail in Taiwan. Hong Kong and Singapore use both systems. In the United States, Chinese communities may use either system, depending on the origins of their members. Mostly, modern Chinese is presented horizontally from left to right, which is the same as English print. The traditional convention of written Chinese is from right to left in a vertical way. This is an inherent complication of written Chinese, making reading Chinese a very tough task for Chinese as Second Language (CSL) learners. So for CSL teachers, how to teach Chinese reading is a crucial and demanding issue.

Reading Comprehension Strategies for CSL Learners
Much research shows that reading comprehension is not based on knowing each character. To be a good reader requires using appropriate and efficient reading comprehension strategies (Chamot, 2005; Grabe, 2004; Eskey, 2005). Teaching strategic reading is important. Following are four main strategies, each of which can be practically applied to classroom techniques.

1. Identify the purpose in reading.
2. Use semantic mapping or clustering.
3. Guess when you aren’t certain.
4. Analyze characters.

Click here for further information and discussion of the above 4 strategy points.

However, contextual information is usually more reliable than semantic information from the semantic radicals. In addition, Chinese native speakers tend to infer the character meaning from context rather than from semantic radicals (Koda, 2000).

Classroom Techniques for CLS Reading Instruction
1. Language - Experience Approach
2. Direct Reading - Thinking Activity (DR-TA) 
3. Retell stories by Guide Questions
4. Reader’s Theater

Click here for further information and discussion of the above 4 classroom technique points.

In conclusion, it is necessary to make CSL learners be aware of the characteristics of the Chinese written system from the beginning.  And keep in mind that reading comprehension does not just mean character recognition. Rote memorizing individual characters is neither the correct nor an effective way of improving reading proficiency. Teachers should help students to be a strategic CSL readers, readers who know diverse reading strategies and know how and when to use those strategies.

Click here for the entire article, including references, in pdf format.

October 2012

Integrating Technology in the Foreign Language Classroom
By Nada Salem, Ph.D. Candidate, George Washington University

John Dewey said, "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, then we rob our children of tomorrow" (Democracy and Education, 1916). It is our duty to teach today in a way that prepares our students for tomorrow. They are already halfway there... they are the “digital natives” and we are the “digital immigrants.”  Digital immigrant teachers need to stop using technology in the ways with which we are familiar; we need to be creative about ways to incorporate it so that it properly complements our teaching and encourages great learning.  It is crucial to acknowledge the importance of the role technology plays nowadays in education, in teaching foreign languages, and especially with the Less Commonly Taught Languages.  Following is an overview of the benefits of integrating technology; implications for teachers; and some tools that can be used in the foreign language classroom.

Benefits of integrating technology

  • Learning is more student-centered. Students tend to work together more while using technology to write stories, search the web, and create multimedia presentations. Hypermedia and hypertext increase their understanding; hypermedia environments are dynamic and interactive and create a non-linear collection of information.
  • Students are more motivated and have a greater sense of control over what they can access and read; their comprehension and ability to create text are improved.
  • In writing/composition, thanks to word-processing programs, students can now
    • focus more on idea generation and organization than on mechanics;
    • write longer samples;
    • have a greater variety of word usage and sentence structure;
    • have more accurate mechanics and spelling;
    • make more substantial revisions; and
    • have more positive attitudes toward writing.
  • Students' reading skills are enhanced (thanks to electronic/talking books which use hypermedia text that links to word pronunciations, definitions, sentences). Students
    • develop a sense of story structure,
    • build vocabulary,
    • increase word knowledge,
    • improve sight-word acquisition and comprehension,
    • move more quickly to independent reading levels (thanks to the "point and click" pronunciation support), and
    • improve motivation.
  • Using the Internet as a resource helps to enhance students’ autonomy, problem solving and higher order thinking skills. Students can search the Internet, evaluate what they find, and then apply it to the solution of a problem. Their critical thinking is also improved as they learn how to create and design websites and then publish their work.

Implications for teachers

Teachers, realizing that classroom instruction is most effective when teaching and technology go hand in hand, should

  • “rethink, unlearn and relearn, change, revise, and adapt” (p. 225),
  • imitate, assimilate, and innovate,
  • have a deep, flexible, pragmatic and nuanced understanding of teaching with technology,
  • be creative and intelligent in the application of technology for learning so they can “innovatively repurpose existing tools toward pedagogical ends” (p. 6),
  •  “[change] mindsets and behaviors established from their own personal learning experiences” (p. 226),
  • become sensitive to multicultural issues that impact learning,
  • plan and design instruction that incorporates technology,
  • develop effective instructional strategies for supporting the learning needs of a diversity of students while integrating technology in the lessons, and
  • assess student learning with technology using various technological tools.

Technological tools for the foreign language classroom

Technology should be used to complement our lessons, to motivate our students to learn, and to increase the amount of learning that takes place, and not to replace teachers. Additionally, in order to use it properly, we need to know our students’ levels and skills.

So, if, instead of lecturing the traditional way, we use a lengthy PowerPoint, would this be a proper incorporation of technology? Definitely not! It is good to use PowerPoint slides images to support the content of the lecture, but the proper incorporation of technology in the FL classroom involves, mainly, hands-on activities.

Here are some technological tools that we can use in the Foreign Language classroom; and although they do not involve three dimensional games, they do provide good technological support:

For Internet-Based Courses:

For Listening/Speaking
Wimba Voice Tools module

For Reading/Writing
Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting

For Assessment
Hot Potatoes
ProProfs Quiz Maker
Electronic Portfolios:

For more complete descriptions of the software mentioned above and their use, click here

In conclusion, integrating technology in the classroom has a lot of benefits. Never give up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when it’s needed.  Keep in mind that there is no single technological solution that applies for every teacher, course, or method of teaching. However, practice makes the job easier. Passion also helps a lot. If teachers can find a way to become passionate about technology, integrating it in the classroom will become a source of real pleasure and satisfaction to them and their students. Last but not least, when using technology in the classroom, teachers should never lose sight of their real objective: integrate technology that effectively guides students in learning.

*This article is based on the “Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) for Educators” edited by the AACTE.Committee on Innovation and TechnologyClick here to see article.

July 2012

Reaching Out to Target Language Communities in the LCTLs
Susan Schmidt, Ph.D.
Executive Director, AATJ

For students of less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), being introduced to people, organizations, and events in their communities that offer connections with the language they are studying is an especially important way to have authentic learning experiences.

HERITAGE SPEAKERS IN THE COMMUNITY: By interacting outside the classroom with native or heritage speakers of the language they are studying, students of Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, or Hindi can learn directly about cultural traditions and customs, while making the acquaintance of people who speak those languages as native or heritage speakers. Every town in America has pockets of people who have migrated from other cultures, and who offer language students chances to read, taste, hear, perform, and observe aspects of those cultures. In return, American students can take what they learn in those larger communities back to their schools.

THE BUSINESS CONNECTION: For many LCTLs, connections with the business community have become a source of learning opportunities. By learning about the business culture of the countries whose language they are learning, and its connections with their own communities, students can both prepare for international careers and serve as bridges to people in the countries of the languages they are studying.

THE STARTALK INITIATIVE: The federally funded STARTALK summer intensive programs in the critical languages regularly feature opportunities for students to interact with communities where those languages are spoken, for example, through field trips to summer festivals that are sponsored by the Asian-heritage communities. At these festivals, as well as at visits to temples, restaurants, and shops, students have a chance to see and participate in cultural activities, eat the foods and play the games of the sponsoring cultures, and talk with people in the languages they are learning.

STUDY ABROAD: The ultimate way for students to experience a language community is through an in-country immersion experience. China and Japan have long been popular destinations for study abroad, but in recent years new programs have been opening in the countries of the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Study abroad students have chances outside the classroom to learn about and become part of community life, through home-stays, participation in local events and celebrations, and conversation exchanges with students at their host schools.

VIRTUAL EXCHANGES: In the era of worldwide connection through technology, it is possible for students to have authentic interactions and collaborations with people in the nation or culture whose language they are learning without leaving home. E-mail, blogs, Skype, Facebook, and other online Web 2.0 technologies have made it possible for language teachers to connect their students in real time with classrooms in “sister schools” on the other side of the world.

THE COMMUNITY SCHOOL TRADITION: Another important resource for LCTL language learning is the strong Saturday-school systems that exist in many cities for second- and third-generation immigrants and other heritage speakers.  These schools offer places where second-language learners can interact with native or heritage speakers and share stories, interview community residents, and volunteer.

EXAMPLES: Community-focused activities

· Japanese-American History: Nobuko Chikamatsu, (DePaul University) developed several content-based courses for her students.  “Japanese American History in Chicago” focuses on the history and experiences of Japanese-American communities before, during, and after World War II.  Students explore that history with community members and develop a Japanese-language website to inform native-speaking audiences in Japan about this relatively unknown part of US-Japanese history. The students interview local residents about their wartime experiences or their present-day lives and write up the interviews in Japanese.

· Becoming Part of the Business Community: Noriko Fujioka-Ito, (University of Cincinnati) works with partners on both sides of the Pacific to develop an International Co-op Program, which trains American students for future careers as global professionals through a program of cultural courses, intensive language training, and internships in Japanese companies. Students learn about the business culture of Japan and work with counterparts in culturally appropriate ways.

· Becoming Cultural Ambassadors: Mamiya Sahara Worland, Japanese immersion teacher at Great Falls Elementary School (Fairfax County, Virginia) and her students are regular participants in the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. Her students perform on the National Mall, sponsor cultural events at their school centered on Japanese language and culture, and make contacts with Japanese organizations and individuals in the National Capitol area.

· Creating Cross-Border Communities: In the 1990s Masumi Reade began to teach her students at The Woodlands School (Houston, Texas) the Yosakoi Soran, a Japanese folk dance. The students perform at Houston’s Japan Festival, international festivals at The Woodlands, and foreign language and culture days held at other local schools. In 2007 they were invited to participate in a Soran dance festival in Japan: an example of “reverse” outreach across international borders.

· Preserving Disappearing Languages: Founded 50 years ago by the Scandinavian language heritage communities in Minnesota, Concordia Language Villages now teaches 15 languages in intensive summer camp-based programs. The Villages recently began a program, in collaboration with the Lakota and Ojibwa communities of the Upper Midwest, to bring elders together with young teachers and students to preserve their languages for future generations.

Authentic language experiences encourage our students to reach out to the communities in which their new languages are spoken, to stretch their knowledge, and to expand their frontiers.

May/June 2012

Teaching Culture: Problems & Solutions Part III
By Nada M. Salem, Ed.D. Candidate
The George Washington University

In previous issues I explored four of some problems that teachers of Foreign Languages in general, and teachers of the Less Commonly Taught Languages in particular, face when teaching culture: (1) an overcrowded curriculum, (2) fear of not knowing enough, (3) dealing with students’ attitudes and perceptions, and (4) lack of adequate training for teachers. In this issue, I explore the final two problems: (5) some strategies and techniques for teaching culture, and (6) measuring cross-cultural awareness and changes in attitudes.

1.-The fourth problem teachers are facing:
Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Culture


  • Lecture
  • Native informants
  • Audio-taped interviews
  • Video-taped interviews/Observational dialogs
  • Using authentic readings and realia for cross-cultural understanding: a four-stage approach to a cultural reading of authentic materials can effectively lead students through the process of guided exploration and discovery:
    1. Thinking
    2. Looking
    3. Learning
    4. Integrating


  • Cultural Islands
    1. Before the first day of class, transform the classroom into a cultural island: use posters, pictures, maps, signs, and realia of many kinds.
    2. Assign students foreign names from the first day.
    3. Make short presentations on a topic of interest with appropriate pictures or slides to build student awareness of the influence of various foreign cultures.
    4. Introduce students to words their native language borrowed from their target language (TL) to help them realize they already know many words in the target language.
    5. Send students on cultural scavenger hunts to supermarkets and department stores and have them make lists of imported goods.

  • Culture Capsules (developed by Taylor & Sorenson, 1961)
    1. Prepared out of class by a student but presented during class time in 5 or 10 minutes.
    2. Consist of a paragraph or so of explanation of one minimal difference between a native and a TL custom along with several illustrative photos and relevant realia.
    3. Some topics: family lifestyle, attitudes, customs and courtesies (what is customarily eaten for meals, when those meals are eaten, marriage customs, dating, cuisine, pets), travel stress, keeping the law, sports, and history.  Students should compare and contrast the foreign customs and traditions with their own.
    4. The cultural insights from the culture capsule can be further illustrated by role playing.
  • Culture Clusters (developed by Meade & Morain, 1973)
    1. A group of three or more illustrated culture capsules on related themes/topics (about the target life).
    2. One 30 minute classroom simulation/skit that integrates the information contained in the capsules.
    3. The teacher acts as narrator to guide the students.

  • Culture Assimilators (Developed by Fiedler et al., 1971)
    1. Consist of short (usually written) descriptions of an incident or situation where     interaction takes place between at least one person from the target culture and           persons from other cultures (usually the native culture of the students being       taught).
    2. The description is followed by four possible choices about the meaning of the     behavior, action, or words of the participants in the interaction with emphasis on     the behavior, actions, or words of the TL individual(s).
    3. Students read the description in the assimilator and then choose which of the four       options they feel is the correct interpretation of the interaction.
    4. Once all students have made their individual choices, the teacher leads a discussion     about why particular options are correct or incorrect in interpretation.

  • Mini–Dramas (Gorden's prototype minidrama, 1970)
    1. Consist of three to five brief episodes in which misunderstandings are portrayed, each containing examples of miscommunication.
    2. Additional information is made available with each episode, but the precise cause of the misunderstanding does not become apparent until the last scene.
    3. Each episode is followed by an open-ended question discussion led by the teacher.
    4. Scripts are handed out and people are assigned to act out the parts.
    5. After each act, the teacher asks students (not necessarily the ones performing in the drama) what the actions and words of the characters in the drama mean and leads them to make judgments about the characters in the play.
    6. At the end of the mini–drama, some "knowing" figure explains what is really happening and why the target culture member was really not doing wrong.
    7. Students are asked to reinterpret what they have seen in view of the information which the knowing figure provided.

  • Cultoons (Cultural Cartoons)
    1. Are like visual culture assimilators.
    2. Students are given a series of (usually) four pictures depicting points of surprise or possible misunderstanding for persons coming into the target culture.
    3. The situations are also described verbally by the teacher or by the students who read the accompanying written descriptions.
    4. After the misunderstandings or surprises are clearly in mind, the students read explanations of what was happening and why there was a misunderstanding.

2.- The fifth problem teachers are facing:
how to measure cross-cultural awareness and changes in attitudes. 

It is very difficult for teachers to measure cross-cultural awareness and change in attitudes so that they can see whether the students have benefited or not.


Measuring Cross-Cultural Awareness: (Hanvey 1979) scheme for measuring cross-cultural awareness consists of four stages/levels:

  • Level I: Information about the culture may consist of superficial stereotypes. Learners see the culture as bizarre. Culture bearers may be considered rude and ignorant.
  • Level II: Learners focus on expanded knowledge about the culture (contrast with their
    own culture). They find the culture bearers’ behavior irrational.
  • Level III: Learners begin to accept the culture at an intellectual level and can see things
    in terms of the target culture’s frame of reference.
  • Level IV: The level of empathy is achieved through living in and through the culture.
    Learners begin to see the culture as insiders.

Measuring Change in Attitudes: There are four techniques to measure attitudes:

  • Social distance scales: measure the degree to which one separates oneself socially from members of another culture (e.g. would marry .. , have as close friend, have as next-door neighbor, work with, have as an acquaintance only … ).
  • Semantic differential scales: judge the defined culture group in terms of a number of bipolar traits (e.g. Good/Bad, Clean/Dirty….)
  • Statements: check the statements with which s/he agrees. (e.g. Envious of others, Tactless, Self-indulgent, Quick to understand…)
  • Self-esteem change: measure changes in self-esteem in the primary grades (e.g. happy with myself, at home, at school, my teacher/friends like me….)

Finally, after having presented the different problems that teachers of Foreign Languages in general, and teachers of the Less Commonly Taught Languages in particular, face in teaching culture, and suggested possible solutions, I hope that culture will be truly integrated with language study so that it can become a strong component of our curricula. There is no question that the successful integration of culture and language teaching can contribute significantly to general humanistic knowledge, that language ability and cultural sensitivity can play a vital role in the security, defense, and economic well-being of any country, and that global understanding ought to be a mandatory component of basic education.

Relevant Websites:

Understanding Culture and Helping Students Understand Culture
By Lynn E. Henrichsen, 1998

Teaching Culture: Strategies & Techniques
By Nada Salem, 2001

Teaching Language as Culture in the Foreign Language Classroom,
By Kathleen J. Taylor, 2010


March 2012

Teaching Culture: Problems & Solutions Part II
By Nada M. Salem
Ph.D. Candidate, the George Washington University

In the previous issue of this newsletter, I explored two of the problems that teachers of foreign languages in general, and teachers of the Less Commonly Taught Languages in particular, are facing when teaching culture: the problem of an overcrowded curriculum and the fear of not knowing enough. In this issue, I shall explore two additional problems: (1) dealing with students’ attitudes and perceptions, and (2) lack of adequate training for teachers.

1.-Dealing with Students’ Attitudes and Perceptions

Students often approach target-culture phenomena assuming that the new patterns of behavior can be understood within the framework of their own native culture. When cultural phenomena differ from what they expect, students often react negatively, characterizing the target culture as "strange."

Solution: Just as teachers need to help students revise their "linguistic patterns," they also need to help them revise their "cultural patterns." Students should be aware that it is important to recognize the pervasive influence of culture on our attitudes, emotions, beliefs, and values, and the dangers of projecting our native frame of reference on that of the culture being studied. To understand another culture, we must construct a new frame of reference in terms of the people who created it, which is complicated since cultures have both functions (meanings, purposes, needs) and forms (manifestations, realizations, operations) that vary widely, not only across cultures, but also within the subcultures of a society. As students are introduced to the target culture, they need to learn to expect differences, and eventually to understand and appreciate their logic and meaning. Any assumptions of cross-cultural similarity should be made with caution, as cultures may not share the same form/function relationships.

In order to help students construct a new frame of reference based on the target culture, one possible solution would be to help them begin with an understanding of their own frame of reference, and then, with teacher guidance, explore the target culture through authentic texts and materials. It is also important for teachers to become aware of their own biases and help students recognize theirs.

2.-Lack of Adequate Training for Teachers

Teachers may not have been adequately trained in the teaching of culture and, therefore, do not have strategies and clear goals that help them create a viable framework for organizing instruction around cultural themes. The development of such a framework depends in part on the definition of culture, which has been the source of much of the difficulty in designing quality instruction.

Solution: Let us start with the definition. "Culture" is a broad concept that embraces all aspects of human life. Of its several meanings, two are of major importance to teachers: Culture as everything in human life (Hearthstone or "little-c" culture, also called culture BBV: Beliefs, Behavior, and Values, or in other words PPP: Products, Practices, and Perspectives) in addition to Culture as the best in human life, restricted to the elitists (Olympian or "big-C" culture also called culture MLA: great Music, Literature, and Art of the country). We should realize that knowing the language, as well as the patterns of everyday life, is a prerequisite to appreciating the fine arts and literature, therefore we need a balanced perspective of culture when designing curricula (e.g. presenting popular culture to the exclusion of "high" culture can shortchange students intellectually).

As for the main themes of the culture, they might be: symbolism, value, authority, order, ceremony, love, honor, humor, beauty, and spirit, in addition to intellectuality, individualism, the art of living, realism, common sense, friendship, family, justice, liberty, patriotism, religion, education, conflict, ecology … "Theme" in teaching culture is not just any "topic"; rather it is an "emotionally charged concern, which motivates or strongly influences the culture bearer’s conduct in a wide variety of situations."

To teach culture for understanding, teachers should achieve the following goals: (Seelye, 1984)

  1. Students should demonstrate an understanding that people generally act the way they do because they are using options society allows for satisfying basic physical and psychological needs.
  2. Students should demonstrate an understanding that social variables such as age, sex, social class, and place of residence affect the way people speak and behave.
  3. Students should indicate an understanding of the role convention plays in shaping behavior by demonstrating how people in the target culture act in common mundane and crisis situations.
  4. Students should indicate an awareness that culturally conditioned images are associated with even the most common target words and phrases.
  5. Students should demonstrate the ability to make, evaluate, and refine the generalities concerning the target culture.
  6. Students should show that they developed the skills needed to locate and organize information about the target culture from the library, the mass media, people, and personal observation.
  7. Students should demonstrate intellectual curiosity about the target culture and empathy toward its people.

In order to translate these goals into classroom practice, we need to follow specific strategies and techniques, which I shall tackle in the next issue, along with the remaining problem of measuring cross-cultural awareness and change in attitudes.

January 2012

Teaching Culture: Problems & Solutions
By Nada M. Salem
Ph.D. Candidate, the George Washington University

People all over the world have become more aware of the value of foreign language competence and cross-cultural understanding.  As populations have become increasingly diverse, more and more parents, educators, and students have come to recognize the importance of valuing multiculturalism.  The need for a strong commitment to the development of cultural understanding within the language program is clear; evidence of "hate crimes" against various ethnic or social groups throughout the world reveals the crying need for understanding and mutual acceptance among the world’s peoples.  The valuing of ethnic and cultural diversity must be a high priority in education as our students learn to live in an increasingly interdependent world.  Moreover, it has been proven that investment in learning about other languages and cultures can bring significant economic and technological advantages.  Yet, culture is still the weakest component of our curricula; cultural teaching remains insubstantial and sporadic in most language classes, especially those related to the Less Commonly Taught Languages.  Why is this so?  What are the problems foreign language teachers are facing?  Can we find appropriate solutions?  In the following paragraphs, I will try to explore two of the problems and suggest solutions to them. Download full document

September 2011

DesiLearn: A South Asian Languages K-12 Study
Anup Mahajan
Executive Director, NCLRC

In 2009, The National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC) launched DesiLearn, a South Asian Languages K-12 Research Study.  The three-year federal grant, awarded by the Title VI International Studies and Research program, will describe all of the South Asian Language programs for school-age students in the United States. 

DesiLearn will allow the South Asian language community to marshal and strengthen existing resources for the teaching of Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Marathi, Malayalam, Nepali, Panjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Sinhala, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Through a comprehensive survey, the research will identify currently used resources and areas of need, and is designed to answer the following questions:
(1) What is the current state of South Asian language education for K-12 school-aged students in the U.S.?
(2) What do teachers and administrators involved in these programs report as the needs of their programs?

As with other critical and heritage language communities, school-age education for South Asian languages in the U.S. presents a clear case of the challenges that the United States faces in building South Asian language expertise to meet economic and national security challenges of the 21st century.  Through DesiLearn, the South Asian language teaching field, heritage communities, and K-16 educators have the unique opportunity to synergize efforts and stimulate national interest for building capacity in these critical languages.  This is highly important because the investments made now, together as a community, will only strengthen interest for public school programs (including after school and summer initiatives), promote standards-based curricula and resources within the heritage communities around the country, explore solutions for teacher certification and professional development, and establish the first nationwide network for K-12 South Asian language educators.

To-date, we have located approximately 250 programs across the country. However, the success of this study relies greatly on the relationships and support of parents, teachers and administrators. If you are in contact with South Asian language program teachers and/or administrators – or aware of K-12 language programs and initiatives – please contact Mr. Anup P. Mahajan, Executive Director of the NCLRC (; 202-973-1055).

May 2011

The Role of Listening and Viewing in LARC Programs
Mary Ann Lyman-Hager
Director, LARC

larclogoLRC Background Information: Since 1990, when Title VI legislation authorized funding for three LRCs, the Language Resource Centers (LRCs) have provided teacher training and research in testing and assessment, materials and curriculum, and advanced technologies. The original LRCs include the National Foreign Language Resource Center (NFLRC) at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, the Language Acquisition Resource Center (LARC) at San Diego State University (SDSU), and the National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC) in Washington, D.C. These original three centers have maintained a language-generalist program emphasis, while some centers funded after 1990 have focused on the languages of particular world regions or on specific areas of institutional expertise.

LARC at SDSU: San Diego State’s Language Acquisition Resource Center (LARC) emphasizes projects which train K-16 language teachers in the use of advanced technologies, the selection of program-appropriate language testing and assessment strategies and measurement tools, and on developing intensive, cultural-rich language curricula (particularly for the languages of our many heritage and immigrant communities and those of strategic importance to military and business.) LARC’s outreach to these communities has benefited project development and, in turn, LARC projects have benefited the community. These projects are natural choices for LARC, given San Diego’s large concentrations of active duty military and of large populations of immigrant communities from the Middle East, Pacific Rim, and Southeast Asia.

Additionally, SDSU’s ROTC language and cultural programs are very robust and attract cadets from over nineteen regional colleges. In response to a need for language-enabled junior officers, LARC offers three years of summer intensive language courses in Arabic, Russian, and Persian which have attracted significant numbers of ROTC cadets nationwide, as well as resident SDSU students and local ROTC cadets. These curricular developments were funded through ProjectGO, a National Security Education Program-supported project. Active duty military personnel have expressed a strong need for pre-deployment language and cultural training available through LARC’s Critical Language and Culture Projects, whose faculty created language- and cultural-intensive curriculum and intensive (4-8 week) courses in Arabic, Korean, Pashto, Iraqi, French, Spanish, Filipino, Persian, and Indonesian to meet the demands of Marines and Navy Seals locally. As with the ROTC intensive courses, military personnel located throughout the country have enrolled in these programs.

The Role of Listening and Viewing in LARC Programs: Several LARC projects underscore the premise that one learns a great deal about a language through listening and viewing. Through a separately-funded Department of Defense project whose target audience includes Marine Intelligence Reservists located nationwide, LARC personnel collaborated with local Afghani-born Pashto language teachers and American military personnel to create a set of lessons focusing on various aspects of Pashtun culture. Each of these lessons is created by collaborative efforts, whose effect appears as a two-way mirror, where “each group learns more about themselves by observing the practices and values of the ‘other’ in trying to make sense of cultural and societal codes.” (E. Rubin, personal communication, 2011). Cultural learning involves observing (i.e., watching, reading about, and listening to) narratives which discuss the practices and traditions of the 'other' and then juxtaposing the commonalities and differences with one’s own culture and experiences. “Through the process of juxtaposition, looking through the two-way mirror, a learner has the ability to more clearly understand the 'other' culture, as well as their own.” (Rubin) Scenes from the pod-casting of one of the twenty lessons created so far are shown below:

Figure 1

The lessons include “knowledge checks,” as illustrated below:

Figure 2

All of the lessons are available as downloadable podcasts, so that subscribers can listen and watch at their convenience to any of the lessons. Below we see five lessons being downloaded through iTunes:

Figure 3

Personal encounters are filmed and later played to reservists during the monthly meetings. These are also available for re-viewing through the iPod:

Figure 4

Through listening and watching a mother and son greeting one another, course participants can compare and contrast similar speech acts in their home culture. They can, in other words, interpret the speech act according to their framework and to that of their interlocutors.

Figure 5

The theoretical bases for the RICL (Reserve Intelligence Culture and Language) and other LARC video-based instructional programs rely on prior research studies examining important pedagogical strategies on video-mediated listening comprehension. They tap into the ACTFL National Standards, and, in particular, expand upon strengthening both the Interpretive and Communicative Modes.

Additional LARC projects are underway that rely on video streaming technology include K-12 curricular Standards-based materials in Persian, Dari, and Pashtu funded through the Department of Defense’s STARTALK program, the video podcast series involving Social Media and Web 2.0 Technology, and our oral language online speech assessment tool, the CAST, developed for testing speaking at the advanced level through the combined efforts of a consortium of five institutions (including NCLRC’s Center for Applied Linguistics). Descriptions of these and other LARC programs can be found at

logo April 2011

The Interplay of Self-Awareness and
Global Awareness 
Kirk Belnap
National Middle East Language Resource Center (NMELRC)
Brigham Young University

weightsNot long ago a colleague approached me about a study abroad student who was making trouble for the program. This came as a surprise as he had typically had a positive attitude, but after receiving a lower grade on his midterm than he expected he began acting out, seriously affecting the morale of teachers and students. I had the opportunity to address the group and took some time to talk about some ways that language learning can cause anxiety and how anxiety can shut down higher cognitive function and result in a “fight or flight” response. Immediately thereafter the struggling student came to my colleague’s office, apologized for his behavior, got back on track, and completed the program without further incident, having successfully acquired a good deal of proficiency in the target language.

Knowledge really is power. The moment this student became aware of his mind’s defensive maneuvers he was able to deal with them and fully engage again in accomplishing what he went abroad to do. While there is nothing quite like having a coach at hand who can help a student process their immediate experiences, most of our students will find themselves in situations where they need to be able to deal with stressful situations and debilitating emotions, often on their own. Metacognitive awareness certainly lies at the base of strategies-based instruction, but in all of our strategies training, we would do well to ask ourselves: Are we shorting the development of self-awareness as we teach one strategy after another and as we create innovative activities for promoting increased global awareness?

runnerHelping students to understand that almost every learner will struggle can be a challenge. Many dismiss the thought, thinking themselves above such apparent weakness. There is simply no substitute for experiential learning. One technique I recommend to help students experience the uncomfortable emotions they may experience is to ask for student volunteers and invite them to stand face to face and role play a simple conversation while standing much closer than Americans typically do.

Given that most students repeatedly experience discouraging negative emotions in the course of learning a foreign or second language, we are now engaged in Project Perseverance which aims to provide students with resources to empower them to deal with such challenges and become effective self-regulating learners who proactively work to accomplish their goals. These new resources will add to the online coaching available in our Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish Student Handbooks and in our Making the Most of Study Abroad.

chineseProviding role models of students who have persevered and succeeded in acquiring the skills they desired is another powerful tool, one central to Project Perseverance. One of the best illustrations of a student who excels in successful self-regulation is the story of Anna, a Chinese Flagship student. Teachers and students would do well to learn from her example. With no background in Chinese, she began as a freshman in college. She approached learning it like a professional athlete, visualizing in great detail each step along the way. For example, she decided that she wanted to talk on the telephone just like a Chinese person does.  She carefully observed numerous instances of native telephone performance and practiced, practiced, practiced. Using this same technique of visualization and setting realistic and very specific goals, she scripted her way from one set of skills to another until she was writing legal briefs in Chinese as part of her internship in China. You’ll find a “time lapse” set of clips of her performing in speech contests (beginning at minute 3:15) at:

The more aware students are of themselves and their feelings, the better they can manage their own learning and become the globally aware gymcitizens the world needs. Developing self-awareness and global awareness takes time and many experiences. These crucial skills for life-long learning can be significantly augmented through good coaching and are mutually reinforcing, just as the goal areas of the Standards are (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities). As Flores-Gonzalez et. al. noted in summarizing their work with young Latinos in Chicago:

…boundaries among self-awareness, social awareness, and global awareness are not clearly marked. Rather, these three stages of awareness exist along a continuum, with youth moving back and forth along it. What this means is that self-awareness leads to social and/or global awareness, social awareness leads to self- and/or global awareness, and global awareness leads to self- and/or social awareness. (177)

Flores-González, Nilda, Matthew Rodríguez, and Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz. 2006. From Hip-Hop to Humanization: Batey Urbano as a Space for Latino Youth Culture and Community Action. In ‪Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America's Youth, ed. by Pedro Noguera, Julio Cammarota and Shawn Ginwright. New York: Routledge.


seelrclogoThe Duke University Slavic and Eurasian Language Resource Center (SEELRC)
Edna Andrews
Professor of Linguistics & Cultural Anthropology and Director of SEELRC

One of the unique features of the Duke University Slavic and Eurasian Language Resource Center is its focus on providing advanced-level language and culture materials of the languages of the region (typically referred to as LCTLs in the American context) in sophisticated and user-friendly technological formats.  All of the projects developed by SEELRC are fully accessible to the public across platforms and in a variety of browser types without any costs to the user.  To date, many SEELRC products are used broadly in universities in the United States and abroad, and by U.S. governmental agencies dedicated to training current and future language specialists.  (Our center name has changed from Slavic and East European LRC to Slavic and Eurasian LRC; however, we have not changed our acronym.)

We would like to describe some of the projects that the reader may find the most interesting.  There are three fundamental types of products for language and culture learning:

  1. interactive grammars for the languages of the region, including advanced-level exercises with diagnostics;
  2. reference materials that are critical to learning, including Webliographies of 26 languages of the region, grammatical dictionaries, data bases, and Glossos, a peer-review journal; and
  3. interactive language and culture modules using film as a central medium.  

Each of these three areas continues to grow as new materials are developed by the top scholars in the field. 

The Reference Grammar Network (currently 10 interactive grammars) provides fully searchable, interconnected web-based grammars of Slavic and Eurasian languages.  Search features allow for immediate access to grammatical topics across languages and generate important comparative information quickly for the user.  We expect to add one or two grammars this year.  Attached to the individual grammars are advanced-level exercises with diagnostics.  We continue to develop and expand exercise modules to accompany the grammars. 

The Grammatical Dictionary of Contemporary Standard Russian is the only grammatical dictionary of its kind that includes full paradigms for all lexical entries, including verbal government, word-formative derivations accessible within individual entries, full sentence examples and an auditory component for each entry (including standard dialect differentiation) which serves sounds in a novel and simple way.   The inclusion of sounds for all individual forms makes the project challenging from a production point of view, but the benefits to the users are enormous.  This is especially true for languages with robust mobile stress paradigms like Russian.  The inclusion of word-formative morphological information and word families presented together with each individual lexical item is an invaluable tool that is not available in other works of this type. 

The 26 Webliographies are a comprehensive compendium and up-to-date internet resource for language, area studies, and culture.  These links have been vetted and recommended by specialists in the field and the project is updated annually.

The journal Glossos addresses a variety of linguistic topics with political, social and cultural themes across world regions.  Some issues are more general, while others may be dedicated to a particular topic or geographic region.   We always welcome new ideas and suggestions for new thematic issues.

Our digitization projects cover difficult-to-access materials, including the complete works of writers like Zamiatin and Bulgakov, on the one hand, and valuable language learning resources like Aronson’s Georgian grammar and Newmark’s Albanian-English grammatical dictionary with over 58,000 entries.

The Culture and Language through Film (CTF) web modules include
(1) film clips,
(2) film text,
(3) exercises,
(4) bilingual dictionary on a single screen, and instantaneous diagnostics to exercises and reporting for instructors.

The next phase of CTF includes new modules for Russian and other Slavic and Eurasian languages, as well as a custom content tool that will allow users to utilize the interface to create their own CTF application. For government organizations that have internet security concerns, we can provide these materials in a stand-alone format.

In addition to these on-going projects, SEELRC offers proficiency testing, training and certification; and language technology workshops in alternating summers for K-12 teachers, university faculty and government employees.  These training and certification opportunities are offered to the community at no charge.

Please visit our website at or e-mail us at


L2 Use
Louis Janus, Ph.D.

Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTCL) Project
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
University of Minnesota

Individual settings
There is no magic solution to encouraging our students to use the target language in our classrooms, but here are a few hints and approaches that might work in your particular situation. First, we acknowledge that each setting is unique; each classroom has its own issues, constraints and strengths. Some programs have a textbook or curriculum with little wiggle room; some force all instructors to march in lock-step fashion with all the other instructors, so that all students have the same background for the unit test; some settings might favor grammatical and phonological perfection in production over the purely communicative – getting the idea across. Many of the ideas I bring up below will encourage teachers to head in a certain direction rather than make an abrupt turn and try to revolutionize the entire system or curriculum.

Student centered
It may be a hackneyed term in pedagogy, but “student-centered” can signal an important view of teaching and of language use. Simply, this idea puts the students’ interests above the importance of the text, task, the syllabus, or current lesson. If, for example, it seems that social networking (technologically or face-to-face) is high on the hierarchy of your students’ lives, use that energy and develop lessons and outlets for the students, including encouraging contact with peers in the native culture. If the cultural classics might seem out of context for today’s students, the instructor needs to replace them with something more contemporary and meaningful for students. Rap music and heavy metal are not my favorite, but if it excites my students, that is just great for stimulating talk in the target language. Of course, giving your students some guided choices for topics will ensure at least some interest in the beginning, and will likely encourage more engagement. Now that finding authentic material on the Internet is relatively easy for most teachers, it is more important to find material our students will be interesting and relevant to their lives.

Will you lose some control over the class? Of course. Will your students feel more attached to the topics and culture (and language), we sure expect that.

Borrowing from Immersion classes
One way I try to encourage L2 use, and set my students at ease a bit, is to lay out the ‘ground rules’ starting on day 1. I teach a 4-skill  Norwegian class. Some courses (especially for languages with a bigger pool of potential students) are designated as ‘immersion.’ Those students know from the outset that they are expected to use the target language, and not rely on English or another language. But it’s my view  that we can use some important parts of the immersion philosophy. For example, from the first day, I insist that only Norwegian be used during the first part of the period. I pretend that I don’t understand their English – lots of hand gestures and body language to start with. After 15 or 20 minutes, much to the students’ relief, I switch to English and encourage questions or the usual first-day of class explanations. I have set the parameters from the very first minutes. In English, I explain that I am very happy to answer their questions, but only after ‘immersion’ time. To me, it’s much more effective to explain a point or a meaning in English at the appropriate time in class, rather than go through all kinds of machinations (gestures and long-winded explanations in Norwegian). But only at the appropriate time! In this small way, I want to keep a separation between the two languages, the same attitude I have towards word-for-words reading or translations.

Classroom business
During the first week, I teach my students the ‘classroom-talk’ phrases, like “I don’t understand. Can you repeat that? Speak more slowly! What does that mean? How do you say ‘computer’ in Norwegian? What is the homework?” I know that classroom setting is a poor substitute for real authentic language exchanges, but at least the students are using the language to request information they want or need. While it is not necessarily a good idea for all classrooms, I allow my students to choose common Norwegian names from a list I provide. Many of the names present challenging areas of pronunciation, and I ask the students to drill on them. Then the students select a name the class will call me during the semester. Somehow they think that’s really entertaining!

Spontaneous, sustained language use
The overall goal of my classes can be summed up: developing an ability to use Norwegian in a spontaneous, sustained way, using non-memorized bits of the language. One role of the instructor (out of so many) is to figure out ways to encourage this development. Language learners should be shown that language is fun, playful and creative, not a chore with rigid right and wrong answers and lots of pressure to come up with them. Your goals might differ from mine, but you should be clear in your mind what you want your students to accomplish.
Bill Johnston, from Indiana University, demonstrates convincingly that the language is best when it comes from students. Showing a blank, white sheet of paper, Bill discusses the imaginary picture of his 2 year old daughter and his reactions to the picture. Then he gives similar blank sheets to his students, who then work in pairs, and describe why their picture means so much to them. Every time I’ve seen this done, the students produce a steady flow of language, based solely on their creativity and imagination. As teachers we need to give our students opportunities to express what they want to say, even more than on what they can say.

The students’ experiences and conjectures
It is generally a great idea to allow students to use their own personal experiences and beliefs in speaking. Elaine Tarone, at the University of Minnesota, Gwendolyn Barnes-Karol, and Maggie Broner from St. Olaf College show that students stretch their language ability when they are asked to conjecture about the residents of each house when they see pictures of two contrasting houses. The students build on their cultural knowledge and imagination, and develop a set of understandings especially when the images contrast the learners’ culture with the target culture. We know from psychological studies, that the more deeply one analyzes or considers something, the more likely we are to make those our own.

Deepen and explore natural interests
While we cannot totally ignore the imposed departmental and curricular structures when we teach, we can  expect the students use real, meaningful, and creative utterances in the language they are learning. We can also give opportunities to explore and deepen the students’ interests.

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Developing Standards for Critical and/or Heritage Language Courses
Vijay Gambhir, Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania

The generic national standards for foreign language learning were developed in 1996 to serve as a guide to States and local school districts for developing holistic foreign language curriculum for K-12 students. The standards identified five important broad goal areas - Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities - and essential performance-based skills and knowledge that all foreign language learners must acquire by the end of grades 4, 8 and 12. The consensus about the pedagogic value of the standards was so convincing that several critical and heritage languages quickly developed their language-specific content standards based upon the generic standards. The language-specific standards for Chinese, Classical languages, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish were published by ACTFL in Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century in 1999. A few years later, the standards for another critical language, Modern Standard Arabic, were developed, and they were published in the next revised edition of the Standards in 2006.

Status of Hindi
Teachers of Hindi felt a pressing need for developing the national standards for Hindi learning as a foreign & heritage language in 2007. The initial push for creating Hindi standards came from the heritage schools, which exist in most major cities of the United States. The heritage schools felt a critical need to align their Hindi curriculum with the national standards in order to make their students eligible for earning foreign language credits in their respective public schools. Some public schools, such as Edison and J.P. Stevens high schools in New Jersey, who wanted to introduce Hindi in their school curriculum, also expressed the need for Hindi standards. (Hindi was introduced in Edison and J.P. Stevens high schools in New Jersey in 2008 under a grant from the Department of Education.)

Teaching Hindi to K-12 learners as a foreign or heritage language in schools is a relatively recent phenomenon in the U.S. At the college or university level Hindi has been taught as a foreign language since 1946. For a very long time, only non-heritage learners enrolled for Hindi courses in American universities for academic and professional reasons. The heritage learners started appearing in Hindi classes on college campuses only in the mid-1980s. However, their numbers have been growing rapidly. Currently, the average population of heritage learners is almost 80 percent of the total Hindi enrollments nation-wide. The main objective of the heritage learners is to improve their proficiency in Hindi for personal and cultural reasons. Today, there are about one-hundred colleges and universities in the country that offer Hindi instruction at 3 or 4 levels for their undergraduates and graduates. Hindi instruction is gradually expanding in business schools also. Most recently, the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania has added Hindi to their roster of graduate programs in international business and culture.

Lately, the interest in Hindi language learning has gone up significantly due to the U.S. government’s economic and national security policies. Hindi, which is spoken by approximately half a billion Indians, is declared as a critical need language by the U.S. government for promoting business ties with India. The government’s goal is to dramatically increase the number of Americans learning Hindi and other critical languages through new and expanded K-16 programs. Currently, various federal awards are available for encouraging the study of Hindi, such as Hindi Urdu Flagship fellowship, Critical Language Enhancement Award , National Security Language Initiative for Youth grant , and STARTALK summer language program awards.

The STARTALK student and teacher training summer programs for Hindi have particularly provided a big boost to standards-based Hindi instruction since 2008. The federally funded STARTALK programs for students mandate standards-based teaching and standards-aligned assessment. The STARTALK teacher training programs are required to prepare all their participants for creating standards-based curriculum and imparting standards-based instruction. For detailed information about Hindi STARTALK 2010 student and teacher programs, please visit the following: Hindi student programs, Hindi teacher training programs

Hindi Standards
A team of twelve Hindi experts from different regions, schools (heritage and public) and universities across the nation got together in 2007 and embarked on the Hindi Standards project under the leadership of the project director, Vijay Gambhir of the University of Pennsylvania. The project was supported by the Standards Collaborative Board, South Asia Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Southern Asian Institute at Columbia University, and the South Asia Language Resource Center. None of the working committee members involved in the project received any compensation for their time - it was purely a labor of love! The funds were used for actual expenses related to two face-to-face meetings held at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

Initially, the goal of the project was to create Hindi standards for only K-16 levels. However, considering the reality of the profession, the committee decided to create two different sets of Hindi standards. One set for those who would study Hindi from K-16 grades; and another for students who begin their study of Hindi as a foreign or heritage language at the university level. The K-16 set describes benchmarks for grades 4, 8, 12 and 16 for all the 5 Cs – Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities. They reflect an ideal sequence of Hindi learning scenario under which students begin their Hindi at kindergarten and continue through college. Since no such ideal Hindi program exists so far, curriculum developers at local levels will need to re-configure the progress indicators based on the students’ entry point, home background, and learning environment. The second set describes progress indicators for all the 5 Cs for beginning, intermediate and advanced learners of Hindi at the post-secondary level, where robust Hindi programs have been in place for years. Both sets of the Hindi standards include several age and level appropriate sample learning scenarios which demonstrate how multiple standards can be incorporated in thematically organized learning units.

After several revisions and gaining input from the field & our chief consultant, Professor June K. Philips (who was also the director of the generic standards project), the Hindi standards for K-16 are now ready for publication. The standards were shared with the profession at several stages of the project through presentations at national conferences, such as NCOLCTL and ACTFL. They have also been made available to selected world language supervisors of public schools and teachers of heritage schools involved in curriculum development. The K-16 set of the standards has been extensively used by the teachers of STARTALK Hindi student programs as a guide for articulating learning goals for their Hindi programs. The second set of the Hindi standards, which is for beginning, intermediate and advanced learners of Hindi at the university level, is still being field tested, but it will be ready soon. Both sets of the Hindi standards will be included in the next edition of the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.

Impact of Standards
Hindi standards are already making a significant impact on the profession by raising awareness of the teachers about the advantages of imparting standards-based instruction and standards-aligned assessment. The new framework of communication in terms of the three modes - interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational – provides opportunities for maximizing integrated learning and takes the profession beyond the four-skill approach to communication. In the standards-based approach, the three pronged approach to culture - products, practices and perspectives – has facilitated the process of integrating target culture into the language curriculum. Students study, discuss and compare different aspects of the target culture with their own and develop their language at the same time. Among other things, the standards have strengthened the ideas of content-based curriculum and the role of community in language acquisition.

Although the standards-based instruction has not caught on strongly at the post-secondary institutions thus far, it is certainly making headway. For example, the South Asia Center and South Asia Studies department at the University of Pennsylvania have made it a priority to impart standards-based instruction for Hindi and its all other South Asian languages in the next four years. The language faculty is being trained for creating standards-based curriculum and learning materials. In addition, the South Asia Center, a national Title VI Center, is taking a leadership role by joining hands with Penn’s Graduate School of Education for conducting action-based research to evaluate the impact of standards-based instruction on students’ learning.

The Hindi standards should help in bringing Hindi instruction at par with the other critical and heritage languages that are already implementing SLA supported standards-based methodology. Hopefully, the standards will familiarize more world language supervisors of K-12 with Hindi and encourage their school districts to introduce Hindi in their schools. The U.S. colleges and universities will soon have to rearticulate their Hindi curriculum when they start getting students who have already gained advanced level proficiency in Hindi in their high schools.


Performed Culture and Overseas Study: Beyond the Obligatory Temple Visit
Patrick McAloon
The Ohio State University

Individuals aspiring to achieve expertise in any field must be practitioners of that field : football players must play football for years before they can play professionally; football coaches do not need to have played football themselves, but they must have coached for years if they hope to be successful. Students of foreign languages and cultures are no different. In order for someone to say they "know" Chinese language or culture, they must be able to demonstrate that knowledge through action, and action is learned through participation in the target culture. During the summer of 2010, 32 students from five US universities participated in the Chinese community through an Ohio State University-managed overseas study program. .

Galal Walker (in lectures at the Ohio State University) and Eric Shepherd (1998) describe six levels of participation in a culture or subculture: observer, spectator, fan, commentator, player and shareholder. Those who use language professionally belong to the levels of player and shareholder. Players are those who are seen as participants in an event and whose actions result in either winning or losing. Winning and losing in a culture is measured by the number and/or quality of one’s relationships, how many tasks one attempts are accomplished, and so on. Players must know the rules of the game as well as be able to act according to them in order to score "points" . In the subcultures we will sample below, players must know how to talk and think in order to create performances that others in the same subculture will recognize as being shared. Players who are unable to play by the rules of the subculture that characterizes a domain are either ostracized or politely excluded. Shareholders are participants in a culture whose investment in time and/or money gives them decision-making power. They must also be players, if they intend to ‘win’ in their actions, however. .

It is unnecessary for all study programs in China to assume that their participants intend to achieve player or shareholder status. Many Americans go to China simply to be observers or fans. For these participants, whirlwind trips to three or four locations per week or a short stay in a large city like Beijing or Shanghai are sufficient. Such programs allow participants to observe Chinese culture through static objects such as Buddhist temples, or packaged performances such as Peking Opera with supplemental English explanations. For students who expect to achieve expert status in a field relating to Chinese language or culture, a more nuanced and conscious approach to cultural learning is needed. .

Hector Hammerly (1982) describes three discourses of culture, a division that helps us start thinking about culture in manageable chunks. They are achievement culture, informational culture and behavioral culture. Achievement culture represents the things about which a society is proud: the Great Wall or the Peking Opera; informational culture is the set of knowledge that well-socialized people are expected to know: the population of one’s hometown or what flavors of cuisines are associated with what Chinese regions; behavioral culture are the set of behaviors that typify a group of people: Chinese people exchange business cards with two hands and do not generally bow from the waist. All three discourses can be found in teaching materials on Chinese language and culture, but not in an equal ratio: achievement and informational culture are generally given more weight than behavioral culture. .

Walker (2000) explains that natives approach cultural items from three angles: revealed culture, ignored culture and suppressed culture. As Warnick and Christensen (2006) point out, revealed culture is the most commonly taught set of cultural items. Foreign learners of Chinese language and culture are most often taught those aspects of Chinese culture of which the Chinese are themselves highly aware and also willing to share, whether achievement, information or behavior culture. Because these items (e.g., how to use chopsticks or greet one’s teacher) are relatively obvious, they are easier to observe and therefore to teach. These items also rarely come into serious conflict with American learners’ own values or assumptions. It is difficult to have a moral issue with the use of chopsticks, regardless of one’s ability to use them. .

Administrators of any program for Americans in China must decide how much of each of the six kinds of culture they will teach. Programs designed for short-term sojourners or tourists will naturally focus on revealed culture, particularly achievement culture. Programs designed for future experts on Chinese culture, however, should incorporate all forms of culture. Some forms are easily taught through formal instruction, while others can only be learned from experiences students have while participating in the program. These experiences, though spontaneous, occur because the program is set up in such a way that these spontaneous events can take place in the students’ lives. .

A defining aspect of the summer language programs in Qingdao is that students are put into situations in which they must engage the local community to achieve their own goals, and the local community expects the students to confirm to Chinese cultural standards for doing so. In these situations, the local community is not prepped for interacting with foreigners. In 2010, two of the many ways in which the OSU-managed programs in Qingdao created cross-cultural performance situations were weekly interview projects and the assignment of Chinese roommates. .

While these community interactions were not directly mediated by instructor intervention, students had much in-class practice and feedback before going into the field. For their interviews, students were given a weekly theme related to some aspect of informational culture (e.g., leisure time) and were then tasked with designing and carrying out a survey on that subject. Students received classroom feedback on the appropriateness of their draft survey questions, and then they conducted practice interviews with their classmates using revised surveys. Next, the students tested their surveys with three local Chinese people and reported on the experience. Students were encouraged to treat the survey as a conversation and avoid phrases such as "homework assignment" and "my next question is," and encouraged to turn respondents’ answers into conversation starters by spontaneously asking follow-up questions. Students again revised their questions, interviewed seven more locals, and presented their findings every Thursday. For many students, the interview assignment was the first time they had had to use Chinese to obtain a favor from a Chinese interlocutor who was not paid to interact with them. In a culture where relationships are key, and the most fundamental relationships – family, people from the same hometown, and schoolmates – are practically unavailable to Americans, the ability to initiate and maintain relationships with strangers is critical. .

The second means by which the Qingdao summer programs created opportunities for its participants to engage in real-life tasks was the assignment of a Chinese roommate to each American student. Living with a stranger – even when the stranger is from one’s own culture – entails a wide variety of communication challenges, from what direction the toilet paper should unroll when replaced to what time lights will go out to accommodate a light sleeper. A US-Chinese roommate program requires a good deal of management and logistical support from the Chinese contributing institution. While American learners may feel that everything they learned from roommate interactions they learned all by themselves, a lot of programmatic work goes into initiating and maintaining a roommate program. .

The Flagship summer programs in Qingdao are designed to create opportunities for American students to practice communicating in Chinese culture, engaging local Chinese who are not trained to interact with foreigners and who cannot help but rely upon their own cultural assumptions to carry out communication. Experiencing behavioral culture that is highly different from your own can be a jarring experience, especially when the interlocutors had previously assumed that their own behaviors were the "natural" or "right" way. Some critics of this kind of program feel that American learners should not be subjected to unprofessional Chinese professionals, should not be asked to negotiate for something they need from a stranger, and should not have to recognize and adapt to new expectations regarding classroom and social success. Proponents of this program counter that Americans hoping to involve China in their professional careers must learn these skills sooner or later, and better to do it sooner when there are a variety of institutional resources available to both explain and sometimes help resolve differences. .

Visiting Buddhist temples is an important part of visiting China, especially if the visit can be contextualized with the temple’s role in Chinese achievement and informational cultures. In addition to tourist sites that well-traveled Chinese are expected to have visited, visiting rural villages that have never before seen a foreigner and pursuing a concrete task like interviewing residents takes students to another level of engagement. Because knowing is doing, students studying abroad should be given ample opportunities to "do" communication in that culture. Using Chinese words in English sentences works perfectly well when a learner is only communicating with peers and Chinese instructors, but to understand how Chinese people use words and actions to create Chinese meanings requires actual participation. Simply visiting a tourist site will satisfy fans and observers, but future China experts need to be able to engage the Chinese community in a way that will allow them to succeed professionally. Conscious attendance to behavioral and ignored culture will help Americans in overseas study programs accomplish this goal.

If you wish to see the reference notes and resources, please download the Word version of the article here: Download

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October 2010
A Student's Perspective: Spotlight on NSLI - Youth
by Jennifer Frey

This summer I spent six weeks traveling in China with the NSLI-Y Summer China Program for High School students. It was a State Department funded program. There were approximately 100 scholarships for China and many more for other critical languages. The scholarships were divided among many organizing groups. My trip to China was organized by the American Councils for International Education.

I heard about the program through the Foreign Language committee in my county on which my mother was previously a member. My fellow classmates on the trip found out in a variety of ways, through teachers and searching for programs on the Internet. One of the friends I made on the trip actually found out because my mother shared the information with my Chinese teacher. The trip was the first time I met my classmate though, because we take Chinese online during the school year through Virtual Virginia.

My original intent to learn Chinese sprouted from my half-Chinese heritage. When I first began learning Chinese, however, I was studying Cantonese. Around three years ago, I switched to studying Mandarin. I learned from my previous Chinese experiences and my own brother’s experience learning in China that the best way to really become fluent in a language is to not only dedicate yourself, but also to practice it in the native country. It allows you a more regular opportunity to speak the language, when you aren’t able to at home. The best way to learn a language is to apply it. I knew that if I could receive this opportunity, it would be a huge help to my language skills.

The goal of the program was to encourage study of critical languages in young American citizens and continue to cultivate the language skills of those already studying critical languages. I was with a group of forty students at the beginning. After the first week, we split up into two groups of twenty. One group stayed in Zhengzhou, while my group headed off to Shanghai. The trip was an amazing cultural, learning, and social experience. By being in the country, I was able to embrace and absorb the culture more, which allowed me to understand further and enjoy it. As for learning, we spent five weeks in our cities with host families taking language classes. I was in Shanghai, which was a very interesting city because of its combination of modern and traditional China. We had two integrated Chinese classes everyday along with two speaking Chinese classes. Our classes would be summed up with an hour culture class, such as tai chi, calligraphy, paper cutting, Chinese history, etc. Activities were often organized in the city or at school afterwards.

There was also plenty of free time, which I felt was the most beneficial for practicing my Chinese and absorbing the culture. My friend and I armed with our tour guidebooks would explore Shanghai. We were able to visit many of the historical and shopping sites that interested us. The experience of bargaining was great for practicing my Chinese. Interacting with vendors, I learned and used phrases to negotiate. The repetition and reuse of certain phrases really ingrained the Chinese in my head. The most beneficial part of practicing Chinese in China was the practice with fluid speaking. Speaking, no matter how limited my vocabulary, became more natural and comfortable. I found myself more comfortable speaking the language and became more comfortable with taking the risk of being incorrect.

The host family experience was a monumental part of the cultural experience. The host family was a great tool for practicing my Chinese. The relationship that I created with my host family allowed us to share our cultures with each other. From them I learned the reality of daily life in China, and I was also able to give them a taste of the American lifestyle. We also tackled barriers together. My host parents did not know English. I think they probably knew three words of English max each. My host parents also had a strong Shanghai accent. This posed challenges in communication, but it was also great for learning. I also created a delightful relationship with my host sibling’s eight year-old cousin. She didn’t speak English either but, the few times that I had dinner with them, she helped me with my homework by making me repeat phrases till I could speak them correctly. She also corrected my characters. My host family welcomed me into the family graciously and those relationships not only helped me learn Chinese, but also made me feel more comfortable in the country.

I had many amazing and unusual experiences in Shanghai. One experience that I had twice in Shanghai was getting lost going home. The first time was about 3 days after arriving in Shanghai. My host sibling had shown me how to get to the subway from their apartment. However, we took two different routes on the days I walked with her. The first time that I was walking home alone, I jumped off at the subway stop. I started heading in the general direction because I found that I couldn’t remember exactly what street to start on. So it happens that day, I had forgotten my Chinese cell phone and emergency numbers. I was in luck that my teacher had given all the students maps. Otherwise, the only resources I had were my textbooks, a small amount of cash, and an American cell phone. My cell phone from home could have been a back-up, except I didn’t have any cell phone numbers for people with me in the country. I ended up on a street parallel to mine. Some of the streets didn’t seem to have signs, but I crossed over onto my street. However, the street that my apartment was on was very long. I ended up walking entirely in the wrong direction. I had to ask a taxi driver and another person for directions. This is where my Chinese classes came in handy. I was able to ask and understand their directions. At this point, I was very scared and flustered. I managed to make it back to the apartment after walking for an hour, when the walk should have only taken ten minutes. It turned out to be a good experience. I was able to use my Chinese in a practical situation. I also learned never to leave my cell phone at home again.

My experience in China was such a life-changing experience for me. I didn’t just learn Chinese in China, but I also evolved as a person. Among many things, the trip helped me to become more independent. Chinese is a strong interest of mine. I never find myself bored when I am studying Chinese. I am now planning to go back for half of my senior year of high school and have also been sharing the program with many people I know , so they will also apply for the program. In the future, I hope to major in Chinese in college. I encourage everyone, if they can, to take advantage of an opportunity like this. It’s a great way to understand the world better and make friends that will last a lifetime.


April 2010

The NCLRC Arabic K-12 Survey: Positive Trends in the Professional Development of Arabic Teachers
by Michael Greer and Dora Johnson
(this article is in press with the Newsletter of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages)

The U.S. has witnessed a substantial increase of schools teaching Arabic over the last decade. Since 2003, the Arabic K-12 Project of the National Capital Language Resource Center has conducted a national survey of public and private K-12 schools teaching Arabic as a core course. The purpose of the Arabic K-12 survey is to collect and maintain data on all U.S. K-12 schools which give credit for Arabic language study. As a result, we are able to report on the rapidly increasing growth of K-12 Arabic language instruction, determine the greatest needs of Arabic teachers, and facilitate dialogue on how to further professionalize the field of Arabic language teaching.

This article highlights some of the positive trends we are witnessing in the professional development of Arabic teachers by comparing our earliest survey data on teachers’ professional development from 2007 with our latest from 2009. Our survey database contains data from 2006 onward. In that year, we identified and attempted to survey 84 schools. Each year we have identified new schools and attempted to survey as many of them as possible. 2009 has been the most comprehensive survey year to date. We identified 313 schools currently teaching Arabic for credit in 40 states, reaching a conservative estimate of 47,000 students. Of these 313 schools, we completed at least a portion of the survey with 176 (meaning, we learned more detailed information about that program than what can be determined from looking at their website).

School Data
The pie graph below illustrates the portion that different school types make up of the overall number of schools teaching Arabic. Most private schools are Islamic schools teaching Arabic at the elementary and middle school levels, while most public schools are teaching Arabic at the high school level.

School Type as Percentage of Whole, N=313 (2009)

pie chart of arabic schools

The survey itself consists of 38 closed and open ended questions divided into five sections: Contact Data, School Data, Program Data, Student Data, and Teacher Data. We ask four questions about teacher development.

The first question asks, “Does your school provide professional development opportunities to Arabic teachers?” In 2007, two thirds of private school teachers responded “no” to that question. However, two years later in 2009, over half of private teachers interviewed reported “yes,” indicating that private schools have made positive progress in offering professional development to their teachers.

Second, we asked teachers, “Does your school provide an Arabic curriculum to teachers?” In 2007, we found that the number of schools that did not provide curriculum to teachers was twice as high as the number of schools that did. But now, two years later, we found the reverse to be true. Almost twice as many private schools provide a curriculum for their teachers than those that do not.

The third question in this study asks, “Are teachers at your school certified to teach in the U.S.?” This question revealed that most public school teachers are certified while most private school teachers are not. An encouraging development over the last two years is that while not a single private school teacher reported certification in 2007, two years later, sixteen private school teachers reported certification. This difference may be due to the number of states that have developed alternate certification for Arabic language teachers that did not exist earlier.

Fourth, we asked teachers if they were aware of the Standards for Learning Arabic K-16 (National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project. Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century, 3rd ed. Allen Press, Inc, 2006.) While we have consistently found that large numbers of private school teachers are unaware of the Standards, it has been encouraging that in our 2009 survey a greater proportion of both public and private teachers reported awareness of the Standards. Fortunately, our survey allows us the opportunity to inform teachers about the Standards if they desire.

In conclusion, the increases in the professional development of Arabic teachers is promising to the field. However, such success does not imply that the Arabic teaching field has “arrived.” While we have come a long way, we must also heed our findings from other survey questions that Arabic teachers are still desperate for supplemental materials, training workshops, textbooks, and curriculum. As Arabic teachers across the country continue to come together to meet these challenges, we look forward to researching and reporting these ongoing trends through the Arabic K-12 Survey.

The survey results and a full listing of schools can be found on our website at:

February 2010

Using Technology to Make Professional Development Effective and Cost-Effective:
The JOINT Online Course Program for Japanese Language Teachers

by Takeshi Sengiku (Gettysburg College), EikoUshida (University of California, San Diego), Yasu-Hiko Tohsaku (UCSD; JOINT Project Director), and Susan Schmidt (AATJ)

JOINT (Japanese On-line Instruction Network for Teachers) is a program of online instruction and training specifically designed for the professional development of Japanese language teachers currently working in schools and colleges in the United States. The program, which takes advantage of readily available and free or low-cost cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies, was developed and is offered by the Alliance of Associations of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ).

Courses in the JOINT program typically take place over a 6-week period which includes a technology orientation and extra time for project work. The courses are a mix of working on one’s own and interacting in pairs and with the group in real-time online video conferencing. Participants work on assigned readings and lectures independently and also engage in collaborative learning, working on projects in pairs or small groups that include both native and non-native-speaking teachers.

Assignments and evaluations are individualized to accommodate the differing needs of the participants. The number of participants is kept to a maximum of 16 in order to ensure that each participant can receive close attention from the instructors, who are experts in both Japanese language teaching and the specific content of the topic in the course.

Content Based Instruction Course

The first JOINT course, Content Based Instruction, was developed by two college-level teachers and one technology specialist and first offered in September 2008. Based on what we learned while offering this course and feedback from the participants, we redesigned and offered it a second time in January 2009.

Both instructors had experience in teaching Japanese language and culture at the advanced level. They agreed to design this course to resemble a face-to-face workshop as much as possible, focusing on hands-on materials development. Additionally, a careful effort was made to maintain the academic standard of a graduate-level course.

The principle of backward design was used to develop the curriculum of this course. First, two main goals were identified: to give Japanese language teachers professional development and resources that could help them to create content-based instruction (CBI) lessons; and to enhance the language proficiency of non-native Japanese-speaking teachers who aim to develop advanced reading skills and content or cultural knowledge in their students. Next, assessment tools and evaluation criteria were determined, followed by topic selection and development of teaching materials. To achieve the second goal, most teaching materials were developed in both English and Japanese, providing comprehensible input. It was hoped that non-native Japanese teachers would directly experience the CBI approach, in which they would learn about CBI in Japanese and improve their overall Japanese proficiency.

Other courses which have been or are being developed and have been or will be offered in 2009, 2010, and 2011, include a course for teachers of advanced-level Japanese language and culture course in high schools; a course on reading strategies and skills for teaching reading (aimed at non-native-speaking teachers); Basics of Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language (for entry-level teachers); Teaching Business Japanese; Using technology in the Foreign Language Classroom; and Assessment Issues in Japanese Language Education.

Project History and Technology Outline
A program of online courses for Japanese teachers was first discussed and tested in the 1990s, but progress was doomed by the cost of developing or adapting the type of courseware that was in use at that time for online instruction/distance learning.

In 2007, an AATJ task force, with the help of the Japan Foundation, re-focused on online professional development. This time period coincided with the infusion of free services available through cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies. A professional organization such as AATJ, which does not have access to web-based course management systems (e.g., Blackboard, WebCT, etc.) provided by universities and colleges and the funding to develop its own course management systems and manage its own server around the clock, now can offer an online course almost free of charge.

Considering the financial, pedagogical, and technological issues involved in the curriculum design and needs, we decided to conduct the JOINT course with the combination of Google Apps, Google Groups, and Skype (adding Adobe Connect Pro for the second CBI course offering and beyond). Google Apps was used as the main application to administer the users and control other applications. Google Apps offers nonprofit organizations the ability to obtain an organization-specific domain free of charge, and they are able to use various applications within the domain. The applications under the Google Apps domain include Google Sites to create a website, Google Docs to create, share, and collaborate on documents, Google Calendar to provide a schedule, and Google Video to share videos. Within a Google Apps domain, administrators can control the sharing settings to determine who can see the specific content as a viewer or edit the content as a collaborator.

General Information on JOINT Program
Costs to participants are low, ranging from $50 to $100 per course. Two or 3 units of graduate credit from the University of Colorado are available to participants who wish to earn credit, at an additional cost to the participant of $50 - $60 per credit. Certificates of course completion are given to all participants by AATJ.

Before the start of the course, participants need to be familiar with basic Internet features such as looking for information, reading online materials, downloading materials, sending and receiving emails, and online chatting. Experience with using Skype (voice and/or webcam) and a collaborative writing tool such as Google Docs or wiki are a plus. A fast Internet connection (Ethernet or wireless) is needed to participate in online discussions and work on various activities. Participants who do not have a webcam and microphone built into their computers need to purchase one for course participation.

Information on the JOINT program and the specific courses that are offered can be found online at

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January 2010

Teaching Arabic Online: A New Frontier  
by Sanaa Jouejati

While much of the nation grapples with how to implement critical language instruction in the K-12 classroom, North Carolina has become one of the first states to offer critical languages to high school students online. A collaboration between the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the NC Department of Public Instruction, the NC General Assembly, and the NC Virtual Public School, LearnNC piloted the project Arabic Online in fall 2009, providing Level 1 Arabic instruction to high school students across the state.

Currently there are two sections in Arabic I and the first Arabic II course is starting in spring 2010. LearnNC plans to expand the program to include Arabic II, Arabic III, AP Arabic, and so on.  The aim of Arabic Online is to give high school students a head start in conversational Modern Standard Arabic (MSA).

Planning the Course
Preparations for the Arabic program took more than two years.  When planning began in 2007, not only did funds need to be secured, but designers, developers, and teachers for the course also had to be selected. As the course developer I began meeting with administrators in fall 2008. They conveyed to me that the course must be designed following the ACTFL proficiency guidelines.

Constructing an online Arabic class from scratch is not an easy task; it took a lot of thinking, planning and support. It took time to shift my thinking from the face to face interactions of a traditional classroom setting where the teacher and students are all in the same time and place to a new paradigm in the virtual world. The virtual world requires a new way of thinking about time and space, including the need to consider different issues such as asynchronous learning and the distant physical connection between students and teachers. It is indeed a unique shift for teachers, especially language teachers.

Developing the Skills
Computer skills are a crucial part of teaching online. I had some computer skills which made things easier: knowledge of how to navigate through the web, new programs, and Microsoft office. A solid foundation in these skills helped with my willingness and eagerness to learn more and become proficient in handling the web 2.0 tools. Another aspect of training is taking online classes for teaching online.

Receiving professional development and training in online instruction and software was important to the success of the course. It began with an initial meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina and a Blackboard orientation. Blackboard is the software that I use to provide instruction to my students and communicate with them. I also attended a LinguaFolio training workshop which was conducted during the Foreign Language Association of North Carolina’s annual conference in Winston-Salem. These trainings not only developed my technology skills, but also gave me the opportunity to meet other teachers and build my network of support for the online teaching experience. Once I completed the trainings, the development of the online Arabic course took about a year.

Qualities of a Successful Online Teacher
In addition to everything it takes to be a successful teacher in a traditional classroom setting, teaching online requires the teacher to possess new qualities and attributes while also performing new tasks. Teaching online requires the teacher to be a facilitator, a great communicator, a problem solver, a diplomat, a constant motivator, knowledgeable of current technology, a resource for online support, a proficient manager and, most importantly, a sincere friend. 

One might say that this is all necessary in a regular classroom! However, online teaching is different: you have to work with and get to know students you have never seen before and your physical connection with them is extremely limited. It is indeed very different. The expert teacher is aware of these differences all the time and is constantly working to build trust within the online classroom community which, usually, all students need to have with their teacher.

Each lesson should be structured in a way that meets the different students’ learning styles. There are many components to consider in online teaching, including listening to the target language, viewing movie clips or written documents, creating lively and engaging online discussions, using technology, and the working inside a specific application component to mention a few. All that while keeping in mind the skills that need to be addressed in every foreign language class: reading, writing, listening and speaking.  One has to pay special attention to teaching and learning about Arabic Culture since it is the most integral part of learning the Arabic language.

Thinking about the Student

With a class of no more than twenty students, there are many of the usual issues that need to be addressed: there should be a syllabus; a schedule to be followed, deadlines for assignments and tests, a certain time limit for the teacher to get back to students with answers to their questions, a way to arrange online meetings with students, attendance at online meetings with the department and/or the supervisor(s). Most importantly, the teacher needs to be aware of the need to continuously review, fix, and update the course in order to meet the needs of the students.

The article Why Do Students Like Online Learning? by Stephanie Coleman  denotes a variety of reasons why students are interested in and benefit from online learning:
· the student-centered teaching approach, 
· accessibility 24 hours a day 7 days a week,  
· increased opportunities for student interaction,
· exposure to practical knowledge,
· ability to learn new technology skills
· much less intimidating,
· increased bonding and camaraderie,
· instructors are more approachable,
· a broad spectrum of content is covered,
· everyone gets a chance to contribute,
· opportunities for teamwork and collaboration

Final Reflections
Every day there is a new experience to be learned from the virtual class. Teaching Arabic online gives me a sense of broader horizons. It gives an insight into making learning Arabic possible and more accessible to students who, as I mentioned earlier, without this online class might never have had the chance to learn Arabic or become familiar with the Arab world.      

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March 2009

Discourses in Dying Languages: My Story With Yiddish
A report on the talk by Miriam Isaacs at the National Museum of Language
by Tom Braslavsky, National Capital Language Resource Center
Read Article

K-12 Gateway to the Less Commonly Taught Languages

The UCLA Language Materials Project (LMP) has launched an abundant new site for elementary and secondary foreign language teachers, the K-12 Gateway to the Less Commonly Taught Languages. The core of the site is a complete set of downloadable lesson plans and supplementary materials for teaching a first year language class. Written in English, the plans can be adapted to any language and grade level.

The lessons were created by Florence Martin of California State University Long Beach, who has taught languages at all levels from kindergarten through college, and speaks two Less Commonly Taught Languages. Pilot-tested by K-12 teachers from Anchorage to Virginia, the site offer easy navigation to a wealth of information.
In addition to the lessons, there is a section on curriculum design, standards, and proficiency-based teaching. A resource section offers links to national Language Resource Centers, language teachers associations, teachers’ forums, assessment guides, and professional development opportunities.

The K-12 Gateway resides within the larger Language Materials Project website. Gateway visitors are only a click away from the language profiles and authoritative bibliography of teaching materials for which the LMP has been known since 1992. The LMP has augmented the bibliography with detailed citations of several hundred items for younger audiences.
The recent increase of federal interest in foreign languages has kindled a language renaissance in K-12 schools across the nation. The number of classes for less-commonly taught languages such as Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Russian, even in the primary grades, has increased substantially. But there are a limited number of textbooks and classroom materials available for learners below college level. Likewise there are seldom curricula or state standards for teachers to follow. The LMP’s new Gateway responds to those needs.

The Gateway was created with support from the US Department of Education’s Title VI, International Research and Studies program. We invite you to try out the Gateway at

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