Meeting the Challenge of Tomorrow

By Sandrock, Paul | Foreign Language Annals, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Meeting the Challenge of Tomorrow


Sandrock, Paul, Foreign Language Annals


Today's employees need to speak more than one language and function in more than one culture. That is the message from Michael Eskew, Chairman and CEO of United Parcel Service (UPS), as he addressed the December 2005 States Institute, a gathering of leaders in international education including several state superintendents. Specifically, Eskew outlined six specific traits he says are critical for his company and others to seek in future employees:

* Trade literate

* Sensitive to foreign cultures

* Conversant in different languages

* Technology savvy

* Capable of managing complexity

* Ethical

Are we, as the language teaching profession, prepared to step up to this challenge? Our professional response is likely to focus on how best to teach languages and cultures, but we must also take proportionate responsibility for the other four essential traits. Alice Omaggio Hadley made clear in her landmark methods text, Teaching Language in Context (1993, 2001), that it is not enough to teach about language as an isolated concept or skill; rather students develop proficiency when they learn by using their new language.

To identify what works best, teachers need the research that explores the impact on language learning of different program models, instructional strategies, and approaches to assessment. Such research is essential to teachers and critical to the public. Rather than relying on mandated requirements, it is results that will truly change the public desire to embed the learning of world languages in the core curriculum for all students in the United States. Parents, school boards, administrators, and members of our communities will not support expanded instruction in world languages without documented research into the impact that early language learning, integrated and thematic content, and performance-based assessments have on improving students' second language proficiency. The public expects results; research will provide the critical evidence.

Foreign Language Annals continues to be an exceptional source for such research. …

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