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Heading to the Big Easy

Next week, I will attend the National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Language Annual Meeting and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language Annual Convention. While the rest of New Orlean’s visitors explore the Vieux Carre or Woldenberg Riverfront Park, 100 language specialists will discuss policy, standards, and teacher recruitment strategies. On Friday, ACTFL will hold its opening assembly featuring President Dr. Ali Moeller. The level of activity will increase from level 3 to a level 5 hurricane as over 8,000 educators gather to increase their professional knowledge and to find resources to better their programs. It is sure to be an amazing time and I look forward to sharing with you everything that I bring back to Nebraska.

NILA Notes

If you did not attend NILA’s annual conference this year, you missed a great event.

Consistently, teachers attending the conference reported how important it was to be able to network with other teachers. This face-to-face time is a rare opportunity to reach out, to connect, to collaborate, and to gain from the experience of others.

As an honorary member of the NILA Board, I have seen the dedication in trying to provide a wide arrange of selections that fit the needs of Nebraska educators. Plans for the 2019 Conference are already under way.

You have an opportunity to grow your organization stronger and greater. NILA will send out request for presenters. Apply to be a presenter. Send recommendations for presenters and keynote presenters to NILA. Send nominations for NILA’s recognition awards. Most of all, attend the conference next year in Kearney.

NILA 2019 will be a conference like no other. NDE hopes to have the World Language standards ready for roll out before the conference. NILA is reaching out to schools of higher education and other educational providers to provide specialized tracks to meet their professional needs, to build collaboration with K-12 schools, and to establish partnerships. Watch the NILA website in the months to come for more information.

Thinking Ahead

In a Ted Talk video, Sisters Camila and Cecilia Lopez explained why they chose to become polyglots. 14-year old Cecilia studies and speaks 12 languages.  Her 7-year old sister Camila speaks English and Mandarin. However, Camila says language is not her passion. To her, the power of language is the ability to communicate with others about the topics that are her passions.

Another inspirational video is a commercial for an initiative sponsored by UPS, Zipline, Gavi, and the Rwandan Government. The story began in Rwanda. Medical officials were desperate to stop the deaths of women who died in childbirth because they had no access to blood transfusions. This four-way partnership uses drones to fly needed medical supplies and precious blood through even the most rugged terrain within minutes of an emergency call. Further interviews with the partnership members and the people of Rwanda revealed numerous languages.

These videos reveal a critical way to think about world language learning. World languages do have the power to make us college, career, and civic ready by enabling us greater and more immediate access to resources, materials, and people across the globe. Yet, it is the intangible skill of being able to find unique and unexpected connections among seemingly unrelated concepts that is most often the true power of second language learning. Nebraska’s revised standards reflect this understanding. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on ways to embody enterprising associations and strategic thinking while delivering an exemplary academic standard.

From Past to Present

This is actually my third Lincoln life. I lived in Lincoln as a child, return to Lincoln as a college student, and have recently moved back as an adult.

My experience with the World Language Standards has been similar. The standards were adopted in 1997 just as I was leaving to take my first teaching position in Oregon. I have returned to Nebraska at a time when the world language standards are scheduled for their first revision. Twenty years is a long time.

While time has changed some of the practices and beliefs of second language teaching, our core values have not altered. The 2017 World Language Teacher Survey results, the conversation at the Colloquium, and the conversation at the Standards Advisory Council reveal that we are still committed to effective communication, cultural competence, interdisciplinary connections, and language use within the community and using the second language to investigate, explain and reflect on the nature of language. I am inspired by how the Standards Advisory Committee was able, in two short and swelteringly hot days, to synthesize these core values with a clearer and higher level of expectation for student skill, an understanding of strategic thinking skills, and a reflection on the hyper connected world around us. Moving forward, I feel that these standards will reflect a stronger second language acquisition practice.

Why Learn A Second Language?

I was inspired to learn languages when my cousin Gina spent her junior year of high school in France. I loved hearing her stories about exploring Vierzon. Travel became my “why” to learning languages. Recently that same cousin asked how we address the justification and the promotion of world languages. Too often, she noted, languages are a requirement to knock out of the way in order to be admitted to college. This idea was confirmed at the World Language Colloquium in February. I asked world language leaders from around the state to answer the question ‘Why learn another language?’ as if they were high school students. The responses fell into three basic categories: job fun, and for college. I know that all of my Back to School presentations and parent materials emphasized that my class would satisfy a college requirement and save families money. We short change ourselves though in doing this. Why do we learn world languages? Language gives us the power to do everything else with exponential power because we have greater access to resources, an expanded vision, and a larger audience.