2005: THE YEAR OF LANGUAGES EVENTS CELEBRATE: Heritage Languages and Early Language Learning

Foreign Language Annals, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

2005: THE YEAR OF LANGUAGES EVENTS CELEBRATE: Heritage Languages and Early Language Learning


As the year 2005 draws closer to an end, The Year of Languages happenings just keep on happening!

ACTFL members across the United States have helped to make 2005: The Year of Languages an unqualified success throughout our schools and communities. The creativity and enthusiasm that has been put towards this campaign has truly been the key in spreading the word about language learning.

From "language ambushes" in cities all across the country, to local celebrations, radio appearances, informative workshops, public service announcements, billboards, student contests and competitions, and countless other creative events and campaigns-2005: The Year of Languages has gotten the language community excited and energized as we have all helped to educate our larger communities about the importance of language learning.

Recent events in September and October have focused on the learning and maintenance of heritage languages and supporting and advocating for early language learning. The Year of Languages campaign then culminated at the ACTFL Annual Meeting in November, with the announcement of the first National Language Teacher of the Year.

Heritage Languages

September got the school year started with a national focus on promoting heritage languages, including Native American as well as endangered languages and American Sign Language (ASL). The "Boats, Books, and Brushes with Taste" event in New London, Connecticut, was the venue for the month's national event, featuring heritage language authors as well as student performances and other cultural experiences. [See article on p. 598.]

September's focus made for an excellent time to call attention to the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages (http://www.cal.org/heritage), which consists of individuals and organizations committed to working together to promote the conservation and development of the heritage language resources of this country as part of a larger effort to educate citizens who can function professionally in English and other languages.

The Center for Applied Linguistics (http://www.cal.org) participates in the Alliance and has been compiling profiles of heritage language programs across the United States to be made available on the Web. Program administrators can fill out the Heritage Language Program Profile (http://www.cal.org/heritage/programs/profiles.html) to nominate their program for inclusion and help create this useful resource.

Early Language Learning

Both parents and school administrators need to understand the important benefits that students gain when they have the opportunity to learn a second language at an early age. To this end, the focus for the month of October was on early language learning. Events during this month high-lighted the cognitive, social, and academic benefits gained from early exposure to a second language.

The national event took place on October 15 at the Texas State Fair in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Hosted by the Texas Foreign Language Teachers Association, this event featured student performances, information for parents, and an 18-foot multilingual cowboy.

Continuing in the spirit of the October focus, ACTFL, in collaboration with the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL) and Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey (FLENJ) held a series of informal meetings, entitled "World Languages Prepare New Jersey's Children for a Changing World" with teachers, parents, and others interested in early language learning. These meetings created a great opportunity to share information on materials, resources, and topics related to early language instruction (Pre-K-8), as well as to form networks of interested individuals or groups.

In southeast Pennsylvania, a free workshop entitled "Teaching Languages to Young Children," was also presented by local foreign language programs, again in collaboration with NNELL. Participants included parents, teachers, and others interested in early language learning.

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