Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Campus Diversity and Global Education: A Case Study of a Japanese Program

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Campus Diversity and Global Education: A Case Study of a Japanese Program

Article excerpt


Over the past 15 years, the U.S. Department of Education in collaboration with various educational and business organizations developed the 21st Century Skills Map (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2015). Among the essential student learning outcomes are global awareness, communication, and collaboration. Language educators have advocated for their role in supporting this endeavor, as exemplified in the Global Competence Position Statement published by ACTFL (2014). The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (National Standards Collaborative Board, 2015, p. 16) also assert, "Learners who add another language and culture to their preparation are not only college- and career-ready, but are also 'world-ready'-that is, prepared to add the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositionstotheirresumesforenteringpostsecondary study or a career." While such a vision af firms the interrelatedness of language proficiency, global competence, and discipline- and career-specificknowledge and skills, it is not always clear how to prepare students for "interactions among diverse groups of people locally, nationally, and internationally" (ACTFL, 2014, n.p.).

At many universities, the presence of international students offers rich opportunities for students to interact with diverse groups of people. At the university under consideration in this study, while international students constitute less than 15% of the total student population, the distribution of international students differs from one academic program to another. In the case of the Japanese program, in the fall 2014 semester, as well as the fall 2015 semester, almost half of undergraduates who were enrolled in Japanese language courses were international students from Asia, the vast majority of whom were Chinese. An informal survey conducted in December 2015 suggested that the sizable presence of international students in the Japanese language classroom is common at large public universities located in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.1 The percentage of international students reported by nine Japanese programs in these states ranged from approximately 25 to 65% and averaged 45%. This phenomenon prompted questions about the extent to which the needs and interests of students with diverse linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds are being met by a curriculum that was originally designed primarily for native English speakers. In addition, questions arose about ways to enhance communication and collaboration between international and domestic students as well as to better prepare them for future interactions among diverse groups both within the language classroom and beyond. Using semi-structured exploratory interviews conducted with domestic and international students, this study sought to better understand the ways in which international and domestic students perceived their learning experiences and investigated the challenges and opportunities presented by the globalized language classroom.

Review of Literature

A Changing Postsecondary Student Population

Language and education policy and planning continue to be shaped as a coordinated national response to the changing world (e.g., Block & Cameron, 2002): Both the World-Readiness Standards (National Standards Collaborative Board, 2015) and the Modern Language Association (MLA) Report (MLA, 2007) address foreign language teaching and learning and the role of languages with respect to the national interests and development of American citizens (Kramsch, 2014). Not surprisingly, both documents assume that foreign language learners in American schools are predominantly, if not entirely, Americans, as exemplified by the following quote from the MLA report:

They learn to comprehend speakers of the target language as members of foreign societies and to grasp themselves as Americans-that is, as members of a society that is foreign to others. …

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