The NCLRC Language Resource
VOL. 17, NO.2

nclrc logo

November/December 2013
Sign up to receive this newsletter
Visit our website
Share Facebook Twitter More...

Greeting for Nov/Dec 2013

As our big holiday season approaches, we think about celebrating, but we also think about new beginnings. It is never too late to start, or increase, efforts to design and implement goals and activities that promote increased proficiency in language usage. To that end, in this issue, we have a lovely package of gifts for our readers. Our authors approach proficiency from different angles and with different goals in mind, each bringing you thoughts about goal-setting, ways to use film to increase and track proficiency growth, collaborative efforts and much more. This issue starts a series in which we will be following a school system as they struggle to answer the choice of Heritage or Native Speaker programs and designing courses that meet the needs of their community. We extend our best wishes for the holiday season and look forward to hearing from you.

greeting-proficiencypeople (6K)


  • Jan 9 - 12, 2014. 129th MLA Annual Convention. Vulnerable Times. Chicago, IL.

  • Jan. 23 - 26 , 2014. 4th International Conference on the Development and Assessment of Intercultural Competence. Preparing and Supporting K-16 Language Teachers to Teach for Intercultural Competence in and beyond the Classroom Curriculum.
    CERCLL. University of Arizona. Tucson, AZ.

  • For the complete Calendar listing, Click Here!

If you have something you would like us to list, please contact the editor: and she will be happy to include your professional event in our calendar.

redstar_white_bg Feature

Using Film Clips to Promote Listening and Cultural Proficiency
Janet Beckmann, Fairfax County VA Public Schools
Sheila W. Cockey, King George County VA Public Schools, Retired
Karen Falcon, Fauquier County VA Public Schools

What can be more culturally authentic than movies? The language, the scenery, the sets, they all reflect a slice of true life. Hear a variety of authentic speech patterns. Watch how table manners play out in a formal setting, in a family kitchen, or at a fast food restaurant. See landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes as backdrops for the action. Hear music and other sounds that are characteristic of a particular place.

Viewing one- to five-minute clips of movies enhances student listening abilities and leads to better cultural understanding. There are a variety of activities and assessments that increase listening proficiency, but our experience shows that movies are a great item to add to the lesson plan. Read more... (PDF)

redstar_white_bg Less Commonly Taught Languages

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)

redstar_white_bg Crossroads: Heritage Learning

A Case Study: Native Speaker or Heritage? Managing, Meddling, or Muddling to Find the Answer: Part One: The Community
Jeremy Aldrich and Phil Yutzy, Harrisonburg VA Public Schools

In recent years, heritage Spanish speakers have taken center stage in Harrisonburg's (Virginia) language program. They're neither native speakers nor non-speakers. Heritage speakers come with a different set of experiences, a different perception of their home language and culture, and a different set of expectations for their own language skills. In a word, they're different! This series of articles will present Harrisonburg City Public School's struggles to expand and enhance quality language development for heritage Spanish speakers while dealing with the current realities of public education in the twenty first century. Hopefully this "case study" will provide inspiration and ideas for others across the region and nation. While Harrisonburg's experience is unique, it is a microcosm of the direction of American society and language instruction. Read more... (PDF)

redstar_white_bg Testing Tips

What Now?
Victoria Nier, Center for Applied Linguistics

As I write this article, it's mid-November, 2013 - roughly the middle of fall semester, just after the end of the first marking period in many schools. One teacher wrote in to ask what he should be doing at this point regarding assessment in his Chinese language class. Despite his lofty ambitions, he wasn't able to set up an assessment plan for the year during the summer. His question: Is it too late to start now?

In a word: no. It's never too late to think about, plan for, and implement assessment intentionally in your classroom. Sure, we all could be better at planning in advance, but even if you missed your chance to make a new (school) year's resolution, today can still be the first day of the rest of your thoughtfully assessed life. Read more... (PDF)

redstar_white_bg YANA (Classroom Solutions)

ACTFL-NCSSFL Can-Do Statements and Benchmarks Provide a Solid Basis for Increasing Proficiency
YANA: Sheila W. Cockey

ACTFL and NCSSFL have just issued their Progress Indicators for Language Learners, dubbed "Can-Do Statements." Accompanying this document are benchmarks for each level and mode. Both of them provide wonderful points of departure for classroom teachers as we try to provide engaging, challenging, and enlightening activities and opportunities of exploration and expansion for our students. They also provide comfort and support in terms of knowing that we are doing the right things in our planning and presentation of lessons and curricula. Another "comfort document" is the revised ACTFL Proficiency Scale which correlates the various proficiency levels with years of high school study. Read more...

redstar_white_bg Sound Bites for Better Teaching

Not all Activities Lead to Proficiency
Marcel LaVergne, Ed.D.

Of the countless amounts of activities that students are exposed to, it is important to understand that much time is spent in activities that do not lead one to become proficient in the foreign language. A mechanical or manipulative activity is one that can be done successfully whether or not the student understands the words used in the activity. A meaningful activity demands that the student understand only some of the words to get to the correct answer but there is no sharing of information involved. A communicative activity requires that the student understand the message of the language and expects him to fill an information gap by encouraging him to express creatively his thoughts, opinions, or ideas. If students are to become proficient in L2, much more time must be spent engaging them in communicative activities. Read more... (PDF)

redstar_white_bg Business Language in Focus

Business Language Networking through NOBLE
Margaret Gonglewski, The George Washington University

In October's Business Language column, we focused on valuable strategies to help language instructors (without a background or training in business) develop business language courses. Of all the strategies noted there-and in our previous columns - the most important are focused on learning from colleagues. In that light, this issue showcases a resource that facilitates connections to other business language teachers: the Network of Business Language Educators (NOBLE). Read more... (PDF)

redstar_white_bg Reflections of a Classroom Teacher

Teacher Observation: Thou Shall Not Fear
Sylvia Lillehoj, Howard County MD Public Schools

This year marks my 10th year of teaching. In reminiscing on the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned, some things are difficult to recall, such as the names of all the students that I taught or the activities that I have implemented. However, like most teachers I know, it is difficult to forget the mixture of feelings accompanying my first day as a teacher: fatigue (I could not, and still cannot, sleep the night before the first day.), doubtful (I had spent hours planning for the first week, but I still felt underprepared.), and anxious (I wondered if I would be able to navigate the challenges that I would encounter). I was a young, over-analytical, yet underprepared teacher, beginning my journey into the field of education without much practical experience to chart my course.

What made my first day, and first year, easier was the support I received from my fellow teachers... As a new teacher, this support lessened my anxiety and provided me with a reminder that I was not alone in my journey into the field of education. Read more... (PDF)

redstar_white_bg Using Technology for Language Learning

Effective Use of Screencasting in the Foreign Language Classroom
Carol Marcolini, Hampton City Virginia Public Schools
Laurie Smith, Hampton City Virginia Public Schools, Retired

We welcome a team of writers for this column! Carol and Laurie will be sharing their ideas and projects with us through the next several issues of our e-newsletter. Please contact them through the editor if you have suggestions and/or questions. ~Editor

It seems everyone is making videos these days.
The truth is it's easier than ever to create videos for your classroom.
Apps for tablets and free web-based programs make screencasting simple for tech savvy and tech novices alike. And there are many hosting options to suit your needs.
6 reasons to create your own videos.
4 reasons to have students screencast.
Easy to follow directions to give you a head start.
Read more... (PDF)

The Language Resource is a monthly publication of the National Capital Language Resource Center that provides practical teaching strategies, share insights from research, and announce professional development opportunities for all foreign language educators. Funded by the US Department of Education through Title VI, we are a consortium of Georgetown University, The George Washington University, and the Center for Applied Linguistics.

® 2013, National Capitol Language Resource Center

Also available on our website
Culture Club
A space to share multicultural and multilanguage resources for teachers and students alike
Elementary Immersion Learning Strategies Resource Guide
Sailing the 5 Cs with Learning Strategies:
A Resource Guide for Secondary Foreign Language Educators
The Essentials of Language Teaching
Portfolio Assessment in the Foreign Language Classroom Developing Autonomy in Language Learners Learning Strategies Instruction in Higher Education