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Uruguay’s Take on Global Understanding

In 2007, I participated in a Fulbright exchange to Uruguay with nine other US teachers. At that time, 109 full time schools offered 8 hours of school time and three meals day. 24 of those schools were dual-language English/Spanish or Spanish/Portuguese. Schools did not typically have computers, internet or photocopiers. Yet, Uruguay was willing to think globally. A national team examined problems, consulted with various experts, worked to understand the cultural needs of the communities, and considered sustainability. In 2009, President Tabare Vazquez finalized “Plan Ceibal” which gave laptops to all grade school students and their teachers. Now 319 full time schools offer second language from dual language to immersion. Uruguay continues to think globally as it analyzes its needs and prioritizes how to address them.

Columbus Teacher Deserves Credit

Columbus High School teacher Liliana Velasco has long participated in the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s International Day competitions hosted by UNL’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. When UNL announced it would not be possible to host International Day this year, Velasco, saddened by the loss of a valuable opportunity for her students, decided to host her own Spanish Day at Columbus High School. I traveled to Columbus to participate in this event. Although many educators at the school participated in and assisted with making this a wonderful experience, they all credited Liliana Velasco with the drive and determination to motivate, organize, and inspire others. I am in awe of Ms. Velasco. Her talent for inspiring students to become passionate for acting, dancing, singing, and performing in another language and her willingness to step up to create a new venue for language celebration are phenomenal.

The Power of Languages

The Power of Languages came to me when, as a high school student, I participated in a mission trip to Nuevo Progreso, Mexico sponsored by the Bladen/Blue Hill United Methodist Church. My first semester Spanish skills were applied to creating and memorizing a phrase of introduction and an explanation of why I was there. I still remember: “Estoy aquí para construir casas para Mabel.”  It worked. One day, I became separated from the work team as we were in downtown Nuevo Progreso. I used my phrase with a nearby vendor who took me to another vendor who led me through the maze of streets to where the workgroup had gathered. In our broken bilingual conversation, I made a human connection and learned more about the incredible impact the program had on the community. That day, even broken language had the power to unite, to inform, and to change perspectives for the better.

Stephanie Call, World Languages Specialist ♦ 402-471-4331 ♦

The Heart in Language Teaching

Personal communication and intercultural connections in the world language classroom are often the attractions to world language learning. Think about the reasons that students want to learn a language: the annual world language soccer game, to communicate with a friend’s family, or to be able to read the YouTube comments to their favorite channel. Supporting intercultural connections breathes life, adventure, and immediacy into language.

January Blues

Despite the flu, the weather, and the holiday clean up, January trudges onward. As you resume your regular schedules, remember to think of the positives. Counting your blessings is not trite; it is a survival skill. Setting goals can also help to focus on the positive and move forward. Hopefully, this edition of the WL Review will provide a positive note and inspiration for you this January.

Stephanie Call, World Languages Specialist ♦ 402-471-4331 ♦

Back From the Bayou

Ibn Battuta said ‘traveling—it leave you speechless, then turns you into a story teller. The National Council of State Supervisors of Foreign Languages annual meeting and the ACTFL Convention proved just that. From my arrival in a torrential downpour, to Cajun music on a centuries old patio, to beignets and café du lait with colleagues from Massachusetts and Kansas, I two stepped from one cultural lesson to another. Surrounded by the slow N’Awlin’s drawl and the smell of the river, I immersed myself in the French, Spanish, African, Native American, Mexican fusion that New Orleans is and has been for centuries. History is living here, and if you pay attention, it still speaks. While the city itself provided a professional development experience, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to bring back to Nebraska the benefits of the contacts, relationships, materials, and resources that were developed at our meetings in New Orleans.

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.