Chinese is Lingua Franca at UNL STARTALK
UNL was the site of the STARTALK Chinese Language, Culture, and Technology Summer Academy again this year. Twenty Nebraska high school students with little to no prior Chinese experience lived in an immersion experience for fourteen days. The Academy also offers a professional development side for teachers who attend from China and throughout the U.S. Fifteen teachers arrived for the ten-day institute to focus on second language acquisition pedagogy. Students and teachers alike cite the experience as a special experience that allows them to make tremendous gains in a short period of time. Dr. Sherri Hurlbut and Dr. Ali Moeller, President of the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages, organize this annual event.
Hispanic Heritage Month Speakers Available
Humanities Nebraska is offering several speaker events in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month September 15-October 15. Speakers will travel to the site. Each educational institution or youth organization must provide adult supervision before, during, and after the program, incorporate the program as part of teaching or a development mission, prepare participants before and follow up after the program. The educational institution may not charge for the program. If interested in hosting a speaker, the institution will pay a $50 processing fee. There is a $100 processing fee for a second program. Schools with a free/reduced lunch population greater than 50% do have discounted processing fees.
This year’s speaker topics are Nebraska’s Mexican-American Legacy, Storytelling and the Hispanic Oral Tradition, Andean Folk Music and Cultures of South America, and Latinos: Searching for the Good Life in Nebraska. More information about the topics can be found here: http://humanitiesnebraska.org/speakers/topic-tracts/topics-for-hispanic-american-history-month.html
Cultural Encounter Kits
Humanities Nebraska offers encounter kits that include videos, CDs, books, clothing, cultural items, and curriculum materials to public or private schools in Nebraska. Reserve kits for up to three weeks. Humanities Nebraska pays for UPS ground shipping to and from your school. Cultural Encounter Kits are targeted to youth grades 4-8. Topics include “A Treasured Heritage: Mexican Americans in Nebraska” and “Home in the Heartland: Nebraska Sudanese Cultures” among others. For more information, go to: http://humanitiesnebraska.org/programs/resources.html
World Language Standards Revision: Charting a Course for Standards Revision
Eighteen participants from around the state met as the World Language Standards Advisory Council June 4-5 in Lincoln to determine the priorities of world language learning and the course of standards revision.
Participants were asked to define their “essential ingredients” for the world language standards. Groups responded that standards should address effective and culturally appropriate communication, global competency, a growth mindset, and a focus on the application of skills to a variety of settings. The gathering reviewed policies from other states and agencies not specific to language study. Using this information, each small group refined their contributing essential ingredients until a standard became evident. These ideas will go forward to the standards writing team to be used as the guideline for the world language standards.
- AATG-N: Nebraska Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of German
- AATSP: Nebraska Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
- ACTFL: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
- CSCTFL: “Central States” or Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
- NATF: Nebraska Association of Teachers of French
Facebook groups: NATF
News From Nebraska
Updates from Around the State and Our Collaborative Partner Organizations
Alliance Française Announces Summer Courses
The Alliance Française d’Omaha has announced Summer French courses open to beginner through advanced. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org directly for information. Summer courses include Visitons Le Louvre, Chateaux, Eglises, Et Cathedrals, Conversation, and Pronunciation Courses.
Mexican Consulate of Omaha Celebrates Binational Week
The Mexican Consulate is celebrating Binational Education Week May 9-11. Consul Guadalupe Sanchez Salazar invited representatives from educational institutions around Nebraska to celebrate and commemorate the week. Honorable Mention was given to a 12-year-old Omaha student who entered the art contest sponsored by Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations. Two scholarship funds were granted in partnership with Nebraska Universities.
Nebraska International Language Association (NILA)
If you are interested in attending NILA’s fall conference or presenting a breakout session, visit the NILA website at: http://www.nebraskalanguages.com/. NILA continues to accept proposals for 50-minute sessions on topics related to “Coming Together: Collaborating to Improve Outcomes” and other areas related to language learning. Proposals will be accepted until June 1st. Notifications will be made by June 15. All presenters must sill register for the NILA conference.
Learn a Language: Beat the Machine
Second Language Learning v. Google
Google reported that their most sought characteristics in employees are soft skills such as communicating and listening well, having empathy, and being a critical thinker. Although most of the world has come to rely on instant, online translation for easy answers, there are some important ways in which the human brain continues to beat the machine.
Translation programs will never be able to negotiate for meaning. Think of how often we negotiate in conversation. “Do you mean to say, ‘Give the book to Paul?’ or ‘Give the pen to Paul?’?”. Perhaps we mean to give the pen to Pauline. Translation programs can’t distinguish the nuances that we mean but don’t say and lack the ability to ask for clarification.
When you consider further that elements of humor, feeling, intuition and non-verbal response are not mechanical concepts, you can clearly see that the value of language to be immersed in meaning.
Why Not Be a Superhero?
Second Language Learning Makes Us Smarter
Language learning does make us super smart. Think about some of the commonalities of language teachers. Language teachers always teach other teacher’s content, reference other languages than the one they are teaching, and change like chameleons to blend from one surrounding to another. These are actually signs of enhanced mental ability.
Regardless of which language system is currently in use, both language systems stay active at all times in a bilingual brain. This allows us quicker access to a greater array of options in problem solving. Monolinguals are usually constrained to an established pattern of thinking. Bilinguals have the ability to transition into multiple, and at times, conflicting patterns of thinking.
Bilinguals are often more adept at noticing details. This Sherlock-like ability comes from the constant practice of having to track the languages used for meaning and content in order to respond appropriately in the right language at the right time.
Language learning should really be considered the equivalent of power training for the brain. Increasing brainpower enhances decision-making, critical thinking, and mental agility in all areas of life.
Why Not Celebrate Heritage?
Second Language Learning Connects Us to Our Past
World language teaching was criminalized in Nebraska in 1919 as a response to World War I. One country schoolteacher went so far as to tie a naughty Swedish-speaking boy to his chair until he spoke English. Newspaper articles recorded that German speakers were tarred and feathered.
With this kind of past, it is difficult to think that one might be able to appeal to language as a heritage skill. However, genetic kit testing companies are reporting record sales of $99 million dollars this year. Babel Magazine noted that Americans cited the importance of learning their heritage language.
Wherever the district and whatever the language, creatively think of a heritage connection. Read Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark to learn about Nebraska’s Mexican Town. Research Dawes County to find the site of the work camp where 3000 German prisoners-of-war were held in 1943. Review that La Louisiane was a French territory until sold in 1803 and that long after French trappers settled throughout Nebraska. While many Chinese arrived to the U.S. to build the transcontinental railroad, Omaha’s experience with Chinese shows a variety of Chinese professionals including nationally famous doctors, restaurateurs, and religious leaders.
Heritage does not have to be constrained to the ancestry of the students in your classroom. It can be viewed as a communal gift. By doing so, it allows students to find identity through commonalities and to build a stronger sense of community through a shared past and language.
The Value of World Language
Middlebury Interactive Language’s free poster download illustrates five reasons to learn another language. It’s time to think more about “the why” of language learning. If your “why” explanation has centered only around college admittance requirements, you may be inadvertently advocating for your students to think in the short term and to treat language learning as a chore or necessary evil. In this issue, explore more about “the why” and the value of languages.