Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Actfl Press

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Actfl Press

Article excerpt

What Time Is It in Pittsburgh?

"It's a little weird when a person stops you on a street corner in Pittsburgh to ask, 'Quelle heure est-il?' As if you're supposed to know French. But a few people actually did, answering that it was 11:35 or almost noon. A few handled the same question in Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Hindi. 'I think definitely we did better than they did in Chicago,' said Deanna Baird, whose idea it was for Pittsburgh-area teachers to take to the streets for the cause of foreign language education. It has been done in Chicago, Omaha and a few other cities as a light-hearted endeavor in a national push to get the subject in the public's consciousness for the Year of Languages, as 2005 has been designated by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. About 200 shoppers took the 'pop quiz' yesterday afternoon at the corner of Penn Avenue and 20th Street. . . . On their clipboards, the teachers recorded the results of each of their encounters. One category was 'No Response,' a second was 'Response in English'-such as, 'Uh, uh, uh . . .'-and the third was 'Correct Response.' A total of 202 people were polled. There were 72 non-responders, 64 answers in English and 66 accurate answers in the language. 'We're giving it a C,' Baird said. . . . 'I heard people, after they passed, saying things to each other like, I used to know some French,' said Thekla Fall, who administers the foreign language program for Pittsburgh schools."

From "Does Anybody Really Know Quelle heure est-il?" by Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/20/05.

Chinese Students in Utah Have Fun

"Growing up in San Francisco, Lizzie Leader was surrounded by friends who spoke Chinese. But the 18-yearold jokes that it took moving to Utah for her to learn the language. Today, the Park City High senior-who studied French for nine years-is deep into her third year of Mandarin Chinese. . . . 'This is by far the most difficult language ever,' she said in a classroom decked out for today's Chinese New Year. 'But it's so much fun.' Just a handful of Utah secondary schools offer Mandarin-the official language of 1.3 billion people or about 20 percent of the world's population. It's a course that didn't extend beyond U.S. university and post-graduate levels until the 1980s, according to the Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools (CLASS). As of 2003, a CLASS survey showed 16,000 kids were enrolled in K-12 Mandarin courses. 'For one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, it's one of the least commonly taught languages in the United States,' said Marty Abbott, director of education for the Virginia-based American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 'We're trying to reverse those trends.' . . . China's embassy in Washington, D.C., is working with the Utah Office of Education to help increase course offerings by sending a Mandarin teacher to Utah for two years. The College Board will launch the first Chinese Advanced Placement course in 2006-07."

From "Students Call Mandarin Chinese Language 'So Much Fun'" by Jessica Ravitz, The Salt Lake Tribune, 2/05.

Not So Foreign Anymore

"For those who think Americans should be able to speak a language in addition to English to better communicate in a diverse world, there is good news and bad news. The good news, to Thomas Keith Cothrun, president of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, is that enrollment in classes for most major foreign languages rose by double digit percentages from 1998 to 2003, according to the Modern Language Association. 'Americans are better realizing what language education brings to a society' Cothrun said. After Sept. 11, 2001, he said, 'America began to realize how small the world has become.' The bad news, Cothrun said, is that we are still a very monolingual nation overall; too many Americans assume that English is all we and the world should use to communicate. …

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