Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Foreign/World Language Advocacy– Fall 2018 Perspectives

My recent 2018 Fall presentations on foreign/world language advocacy at PSMLA, NYSAFLT, MaFLA, and NHAWLT, along with the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on fostering bilingualism in the home at the NYC bilingual fair, have caused me to think deeply about the role of language, and languages, in our lives, in the future of our children, and as part of our personal cultural identity, especially in response to questions from participants and those in attendance.

Fall 2018 update

I came away so impressed by both the dedication and professionalism of language educators and the motivation of parents and communities to obtain the “bilingual edge” and the “bilingual advantage” for their children.

I was also very impressed by the strength and vibrancy of French language learning in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

It is a wonderful time for languages in the US, with more than 60M Americans speaking a language other than English in the home. However, it is a less than wonderful time for language learning in the US, with fewer than 20% of K-12 students and only 7.5% of college and university students studying another language.

Nonetheless, language skills and cultural knowledge represent not only a chance to re-connect with our cultural heritage, but also a personal, cultural, and professional opportunity —  as well as part of the global citizenship skills set.

What can — and should — we do?

In addition to being vigilant and proactive allies and defenders of programs that are in danger and at risk, as language educators, we need to work together and develop partnerships with language stakeholders in business, government, and in our communities, in order to drive the public conversation about languages and language learning.

Languages matter – and empower: personally and professionally; cognitively and academically; globally and locally.

Advocacy goals include: building interest; increasing availability; ensuring an early start; and developing sustainable motivation.

It is also important for all language stakeholders to understand that we are in this together, and that advocacy is a wide umbrella, encompassing different languages, grade levels, and methodologies — and that we are in this together.

As language educators and advocates, we need to create a “buzz” about the benefits of languages, language use, and bilingualism in the workplace and in our society.

Language advocacy needs to be strategic, using the theories and best practices of management, marketing, and public relations, in addition to our educational perspectives.

It is especially important to remember that an early start to language learning and immersion are among the most valid predictors of a successful language learning outcome.

Most importantly, we need to reach out to parents and communities with either a present or heritage language.

The role of the AATF Commission on Advocacy is: to “defend” the French language in the US, keeping French in the public conversation through professional engagement, research, and writing; to provide information to French language educators; to support French programs that are at risk or in danger.

This is a wonderful time for languages in the US, and it can be a wonderful time for language learning, if we have the motivation, persistence, and strategy to make it so.

Languages do matter!


Foreign Language Education in the Northeast — Kathy’s Fall Travels — Presenting at the 2018 PSMLA, NYSAFLT, MaFLA, and NHAWLT Conferences and at the 2018 NYC Bilingual Fair

I am so happy to have attended and presented at the 2018 PSMLA, NYSAFLT, MaFLA, and NHAWLT Conferences and to have been invited to moderate a panel discussion at the NYC Bilingual Fair.

Fall 2018 update

Language as empowerment — past, present, and future — was the common theme throughout, with educators and parents speaking with one voice on the importance of both heritage languages and language learning as personal, cultural, and professional empowerment, and as a global competency.

As a native of the NYC area and having studied and lived in Québec for several years, I was impressed and inspired by French language education and Franco-American culture in the Northeast, especially by my experience and impressions from the MaFLA and NHAWLT conferences.

Crisscrossing the Northeast over the past 5 weekends, I was honored to present and to participate in 5 important conferences on foreign/world language learning and the endlessly fascinating phenomenon of bilingualism, more common and yet more elusive than many of us might imagine.

Inspired by my wonderful experience attending all 4 regional conference this past spring (presenting at 3 of them), where I came away new ideas, fresh perspectives, and — best of all — new professional acquaintances and friends, I submitted proposals to the Fall conferences in several neighboring states and was delighted to be accepted as a presenter.

Once again, the conferences were wonderful, with interesting and informative sessions, excellent exhibits, beautiful venues, and — especially — opportunities to get to know dedicated foreign language educators in several states and their thoughts on the issues we all face.  The NYC Bilingual Fair gave me the opportunity to interact with language advocates, practitioners, stakeholders, and — most importantly — with parents seeking the bilingual advantage for their children.

I continue to firmly believe in the importance of the educator/parent partnership in language advocacy.

Many thanks to the organizers for having invited me to present and special thanks to those who attended my sessions.


Kathy Presenting at the 2018 NHAWLT Conference in Manchester

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to present on world language advocacy at the 2018 NHAWLT conference in Manchester.

NHAWLT 10-10-18

After arriving on Friday morning, I attended the keynote session on aligning curriculum with the state and national standards presented by the NHAWLT President, the AATF presentation & meeting, conversation en français, and a session on the use of games in the French language classroom.

I especially enjoyed the conversation session (which was also offered in Spanish and German) as an opportunity to chat informally en français and get to know New Hampshire colleagues who share my interest in French and Francophone culture, and in French language education.

The Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, the Consul General of Spain in Boston, and the Executive Director of the Franco-American Centre in Manchester were among the dignitaries present at this interesting and inspirational conference.

This well-attended conference was excellent, with interesting and informative sessions. Historic Manchester, with its vibrant Franco-American heritage, was a perfect setting.

Many thanks to NHAWLT for having invited me to present and to the AATF-NH for their warm welcome, and special thanks to those who attended my session.

Global Learning in Foreign Language Instruction: More Than Just Talk — I can hardly believe a year has passed!

I can hardly believe that a year has passed since I had the privilege to present on “Global Learning in Foreign Language Instruction: More Than Just Talk,” in NAFSA’s Architecture for Global Learning Series.

Many thanks to NAFSA for this opportunity.

Read more @


Kathy Moderating a Panel Discussion on Bilingualism at the 2018 NYC Bilingual Fair

I am so happy to share with you that I attended the 2018 NYC Bilingual Fair yesterday where I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on fostering bilingualism in the home.

bilingual fair 11-03-18 3

In addition to my own panel, I especially enjoyed the awards ceremony recognizing the winners of the essay contest, with essays written by middle school and high school students on how bilingualism has affected their lives. I was honored to have been invited to participate in the evaluation process and was greatly impressed by the quality and depth of feeling in virtually all of the many essays I read.

Several high-ranking French government officials, including Anne-Claire Legendre,  Consul General of France in New York, presented the awards, adding to the significance of the experience for the young winners.

The sessions, including one on “the benefits of a bilingual brain,” were interesting and informative,  and the extensive exhibit area was impressive.

Many thanks to the panelists and to all who attended our session, especially to the many parents present.

Special thanks to Emmanuel Saint-Martin, French Morning, and the entire NYC Bilingual Fair team.

The beautiful School of Law on Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus was the perfect setting for an inspirational event.

Languages do matter!

Today, the 7th Anniversary of Earning My Doctorate — Thank you! Still working to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn another language!

So happy to share that today is my 7th anniversary of earning my doctorate.



Many thanks to those who supported me on my doctoral journey.

Still working to ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn another language! 🙂


Languages  do matter!

Kathy Presenting on Foreign Language Advocacy at the 2018 MaFLA Conference in Springfield

I was delighted to present on foreign language advocacy at the 2018 MaFLA Conference in Springfield yesterday. The conference theme of “Learn a New Language — Expand Your Mind, Expand Your Heart, Expand Your World,” set the tone for a wonderful conference set in historic Springfield, on the banks of the beautiful Connecticut River.

MaFLA 10-27-18

In addition to my own presentation, I was able to attend several interesting and informative sessions on Friday and Saturday — on infografies et BD, increasing target language use in the level one classroom, and culture and language in 2 Francophone films.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to speak briefly about the AATF Commission on Advocacy and its work at the AATF Eastern Massachusetts meeting and to hear filmmaker Mariette Monpierre discuss her films, set in Guadeloupe.

Many thanks to all who attended my session, and to MaFLA, and to AATF Eastern Massachusetts for a wonderful conference.  Special thanks to Joyce Beckwith and Brian Thompson for their warm welcome to me at the AATF meeting, to Phyllis Dragonas for her gracious introduction of my session, and to Mariette Monpierre for her inspirational presentation.

Languages do matter!


Kathy Presenting on Foreign Language Advocacy at the 2018 NYSAFLT Conference in Rochester

I was delighted to have the opportunity to present on foreign language advocacy at the 2018 NYSAFLT conference, with its theme of “Inspiring Proficiency for Life,” in Rochester yesterday.

NYSAFLT 10-20-18 2

After visiting the exhibit area, and taking time to visit with friends at the NECTFL table, I was able to attend several interesting and informative sessions, including one by the keynote speaker, and to attend the awards luncheon.  Sessions I attended included engaging students through culture, public advocacy, and how to engage students and build community relationships — and of course, the sessions on advocacy and community relationships resonated especially with me. I came away so impressed by the level of commitment to advocacy by everyone I spoke with during the day.

My own afternoon session was on foreign language advocacy, and I very much enjoyed the opportunity to discuss foreign language  advocacy with such dedicated and insightful professionals from across the state.

The beautiful and historic city of Rochester, with its spectacular river views, was the perfect setting.

Many thanks to NYSAFLT for having invited me to participate in this historic 101st annual conference and best wishes for continued success to all.

Kathy Presenting on Foreign Language Advocacy at the 2018 PSMLA conference in Pittsburgh

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to present on foreign language advocacy at the PSMLA 2018 annual conference, with its conference theme of “Get to the Point — Languages Matter!”

I enjoyed the opportunity to attend the interesting and informative keynote presentation given by Dr. Luis von Ahn, a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, and to spend time in the busy exhibit area, visiting with friends at the AATF and NECTFL tables.

PSMLA 10-12-18 10

I also attended a session on translation and comparison of languages, which brought back memories of my own graduate work in stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais.

I was honored to be introduced for my session by Sister Mary Helen Kashuba, Past President of AATF, and was delighted to discuss foreign language advocacy with such dedicated and well-informed professionals.

All too soon, it was time to leave for home, leaving beautiful and historic Station Square, spectacular river views, and the “Steel City”/”City of Bridges.”

Many thanks to everyone at PSMLA for having invited me, to everyone who attended my session, to Helena at the registration desk for her warm welcome and to Tricia for having taken the photo of me with Sister Mary Helen.

Special thanks to Sister for her wonderful introduction — I will make every effort to live up to it!  🙂

Languages  do matter!

Louisiana Joins La Francophonie

“It’s official! The American state has joined the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) as an observer member. Its application was accepted on Thursday, October 11, by the organization’s member states at a summit in Erevan, Armenia.”

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Language matters!