Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

“The Independent Scholar as Change Agent: The Case of Foreign Language Advocacy” – my newest article

I am delighted that my newest article, “The Independent Scholar as Change Agent: The Case of Foreign Language Advocacy,” has been published in the current September 2020 issue of JLTR: Journal of Language Teaching and Research.




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Languages do matter!

Reader Favorites Revisited — the guest post series on language learning and use

Although written in the early days of the pandemic this spring as we were all learning to continue the advocacy conversation about languages and learning in a more completely online environment, I am delighted to share with you that these wonderful guest posts continue to be popular with “Language Matters” readers.


Special thanks to all who contributed their thoughts to this series, and who continue to contribute every day to language learning and to the use of additional languages.

Read all the fascinating guest posts (in chronological order) @

My Love Affair with the French Language — Guest Post by Monique Y. Wells 

Interview with François Grosjean — A Guest Post

The Survival of Foreign-Language Learning in a Post-Covidian Future — a Guest Post by Tennessee Bob Peckham, PhD

“Louisiana Perspectives” — Guest Post by Joseph Dunn 

Advancing Internationalization at Home Through Campus-based Multilingual Connections — Guest Post by  Stephanie Doscher, Ed.D

Language as Superpower — A Guest Post by Amanda J. Haste, PhD

“Un prof de français un peu bizarre…” — A Guest Post by Brian Thompson, PhD

Interview with Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France to the Midwest in Chicago — A Guest Post

The Renaissance of the Francophonie in New England — A Guest Post by Noah Ouellette

“The French-Canadian Legacy” — A Guest Post by Jesse Martineau

Celebrate French Language Awareness — A Guest Post by Juliana L’Heureux

What future for the French language in the United States? — A Guest Post from the American Journal of French Studies

Musings of a Romance Languages Minor — A Guest Post by Dr. William J. Roberts


Image source —

“Our French Canadian Legacy — Past, Present, and Future” — included in the FCL Blog

I am delighted to be included in the FCL blog, with my post, “Our French Canadian Legacy — Past, Present, and Future,” part of the series on “Why Do I Tell the Franco-american Story?”

FCL Blog 8_17_20

Special thanks to the FCL podcast and blog for all that they do!

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Languages do matter!

Kathy’s 2020 Mid-Year Update

The world has changed, and it changed suddenly — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, some things never change, even in this year like no other, and among them, the importance of language learning and of multilingualism in our personal and professional lives, and in our society. Not only do we need to talk about language(s), we need to actually use additional languages in our lives on a daily basis!

Special thanks to all who have supported my work and have offered me the opportunity to participate in their podcasts, present at their conferences, and write for their publications!


Personal Advocacy Projects during the Pandemic –Special Blog Series and more

Learning — and using — another language while we’re @ home, the importance of multilingualism and of the French language, and French in the US

The current health crisis has made it even more important to communicate and stay in touch using all the online and social media available.

In response to the shutdown/lockdown caused by the health crisis, it occurred to me that it could be possible to create something positive by learning, or re-learning/refreshing another language in our lives and to reflect on the importance of language(s) in our lives and in the US, which has led me to reach out to French language and Francophone culture stakeholders in the US, in order to strengthen and support the learning and use of French (and other languages) in our country. In addition, I have also brought together resources on the French language in the US. You can find the links to the guest blog posts, as well as my own, on my “Language Matters” blog.

Special thanks to all those who contributed blog posts!

Awards and Recognitions

A personal highlight for me was being featured in the “Alumni Spotlight” of the Union Institute & University (my doctoral alma mater) @ January.

Podcasts, Presentations, and Publications (in alphabetical order)

  • Podcasts (in reverse chronological order)

I am honored to have been invited to participate in the following podcasts —

Podcast conversation on “the power of language” on the North American Francophone Podcast with Claire-Marie Brisson (posted 5 April 2020)

Podcast conversation on “language learning and global citizenship”  on the FIU Making Global Learning Universal Podcast with Stephanie Doscher (posted 4 February 2020)

  •  Presentations

In January, I attended the MLA Convention in Seattle where I presented on “Languages and the Interdisciplinary Department.”  In February, I attended the NECTFL conference in NYC and presented on “Foreign Language Advocacy and the Opportunity to Learn Another Language.”

Unfortunately, as the CSCTFL Conference in Minneapolis in March was cut short by the pandemic, I was not able to deliver my scheduled presentation on “Foreign Language Advocacy and Access for All to Foreign Language Learning.” In addition, the SCOLT conference in Mobile, also in March, where I was scheduled to present on “Our Diverse American Cultural Identity, Heritage, and Foreign Language Advocacy” and on “Languages – Mobility in a Global and Multilingual World”, and the OFLA convention in Cincinnati in April, where I was scheduled to present on “The Importance of Foreign Language Advocacy: The Future Is Clear” were cancelled due to the pandemic.  Many thanks to these organizations for having welcomed me as a presenter and best wishes for future conferences and events.

Although the NAFSA onsite convention scheduled in May in St. Louis was cancelled, the online NAFSA eConnection was created, and I was able to present virtually on “The Diverse U.S. Culture, Heritage Languages, and International Education.” The AATF annual convention, originally scheduled in July in Trois-Rivieres, Que, was re-imagined as the AATF webinar, and I was delighted to present virtually on “AATF Commission on Advocacy Presents on …, with Founding Chair, Tennessee Bob Peckham. Special thanks to my esteemed co-presenter, Tennessee Bob!

My 2020 presentations are as follows (in reverse chronological order) —

Presentation on “AATF Commission on Advocacy Presents French Language and Francophone Culture in the U.S.: Linkages with Advocacy,” with co-presenter, Tennessee Bob Peckham, Founding Chair, at the AATF Professional Development Zoom Webinars (July 1, 2020). ***

Virtual Poster Presentation on “The Diverse U.S. Culture, Heritage Languages, and International Education” at the NAFSA 2020 eConnection (May 27, 2020).***

Presentation on “French Language and Francophone Culture in the United States” at the Englewood Public Library Online (May 5, 2020).

Podcast presentation on “The Power of Language” on the North American Francophone Podcast. (April 5, 2020).

Presentation on “Languages – Mobility in a Global and Multilingual World” at the SCOLT (Southern Conference on Language Teaching) conference in Mobile (March 28, 2020).**

Presentation on “Our Diverse American Cultural Identity, Heritage, and Foreign Language Advocacy” at the SCOLT (Southern Conference on Language Teaching) conference in Mobile (March 27, 2020).**

Invited speaker on “Language Learning: A World of Opportunities” at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Montclair State University, Upper Montclair, NJ (March 25, 2020).**

Presentation on “Foreign Language Advocacy and Access for All to Language Learning” for the CSCTFL (Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) conference in Minneapolis (March 14, 2020).*

Presentation on “Foreign Language Advocacy and the Opportunity to Learn Another Language” at the NECTFL (Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) 2020 conference in NYC (February 14, 2020).

Presentation on “Languages and the Interdisciplinary Department” at the MLA (Modern Language Association) Convention in Seattle (January 11, 2020)

*Conference ended early due to coronavirus outbreak

** Cancelled due to the coronavirus/COVID-19pandemic

*** Presenting virtually, as the on-site conference was cancelled due to the coronavirus/COVID-19pandemic

  • Publications

I am delighted that my articles have been published as follows this year (in reverse chronological order) —

Articles (in reverse chronological order) —

“The US Needs a National Language Policy.” July 16, 2020, France-Amérique

“French is Back!” Language Magazine July 2020 p. 34-37.

“Intentional Foreign Language Advocacy: Skills Set, Mindset, and Core Value.” TPLS: Theory and Practice in Language Studies v. 10 no. 5 May 2020

I am also honored to have been an Article Reviewer —

Diplomacy & Statecraft. February 2020 –

Professional Engagement and Service

I am honored to serve as Chair of the AATF Commission on Advocacy and as a member of the ATA Education & Pedagogy Committee.  Earlier this year, I was selected as NCIS Communications Officer and look forward to supporting the work of this worthy organization. I continue to serve as a member of the Advisory Council of NECTFL and of CSCTFL, and as a SCOLT sponsor. Special thanks and best wishes for continued success to all these wonderful organizations!

Please keep in touch!




Languages do matter!

The US Needs a National Language Policy — Kathy’s article in France-Amérique

French language, foreign language, and immersion programs face serious challenges – a national language policy could help.

I am so happy that my article, “The US Needs a National Language Policy,” was published today in France-Amérique.

Languages do matter!

French is Back! Kathy’s article on French in the US in the July issue of Language Magazine

I am so happy to share with you that my article – “French is Back!” – has been published in the July issue of Language Magazine.

There is so much good news about French in the US — from Louisiana to New England, and more!

Lang Mag 07-20

French is back Lang Mag 07-20

Best wishes/Bon Courage et Bonne Continuation! to all those in the US who are learning, using, and advocating for French, and special thanks to Language Magazine.

Languages do matter!

Presenting on “French Language and Francophone Culture in the U.S.: Linkages with Advocacy” at the AATF Professional Development Zoom Webinars

As Chair of the AATF Commission on Advocacy, I was delighted to present on “French Language and Francophone Culture in the U.S.: Linkages with Advocacy,” with Tennessee Bob Peckham, at the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) Professional Development Zoom Webinars, developed after the in-person annual convention in Trois-Rivières was cancelled due to COVID.


In these challenging times, advocacy is more important than ever before, as both learning and budgets have been negatively impacted.

It is so important that all of us who believe that learning the French language and learning about Francophone culture within the context of multilingualism and global citizenship matters get to know each other and work together to support both learning and use of the French language in the US and beyond!

Many thanks to AATF Executive Director Jayne Abrate for creating this series, which has offered us an opportunity to come together and to échanger, albeit via Zoom, during these challenging times, to all the members of the AATF Commission on Advocacy for their dedication and professionalism throughout the year, and to all those who attended our session.  Special thanks to Founding Chair, Tennessee Bob Peckham, for presenting with me once again this year.

Languages do matter!

Musings of a Romance Languages Minor — A Guest Post by Dr. William J. Roberts

I am honored to have as my guest today my friend, Dr. William J. Roberts, among whose many publications are France: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present, and Sicily: An Informal History, co-authored with FDU Founder, Dr Peter Sammartino.


Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate at Fairleigh Dickinson University here in NJ, all students, whatever their majors, were required to study two years of a foreign language, as well, of course, study too in  a minor discipline of their choice.  Based on my own interests, I went further and, as a History/Political Science major, chose Romance Languages as a minor.

It was a great choice, not only because of my interest in languages and the fact that it complimented my major, but because it fit so well with the founding purposes of FDU: to give a sense of world or international citizenship, cosmopolitanism, and a liberal arts (for all) education.  Indeed, FDU’s founder, Dr. Peter Sammartino, began his academic career as an instructor in French.

I enrolled then during my undergrad  years in three of the university’s language programs:  French (I already had some high school background), Italian, and Spanish.

In my Spanish classes I was most  fortunate (and here I want to take the opportunity to give a “shout out” to one of my many influential profs – I was really fortunate!!)   to study with the noted scholar Isabella Morendera.   What she taught us, in terms of culture as well as basic language (grammar, pronunciation, etc) was invaluable.

Meanwhile, for French and Italian, I studied with John Fisher, a noted linguist who himself had been as student of the great professor and scholar of linguistics, Mario Pei!

With that, I recall so well Prof. Fisher telling us: “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake when your speaking – just go ahead – you will be understood and, in time, will improve.”    So, in such classes, the study of language became a “real life” activity. Or, in keeping with his-  and as I sometimes tell my own students: “yes, I speak a few languages, all of them badly!”

With that, and maybe if I can be forgiven for saying the obvious – the study of languages DOES open doors, intellectually and personally (we really do see things and think differently in other languages)  –  and – maybe we can say, even a necessary part of becoming what is called today a “global citizen,” or “citizen of the world.”    Certainly,  its at least a “nothing lost, but much’ gained”  proposition!

Presenting at the NAFSA eConnection on “The Diverse U.S. Culture, Heritage Languages, and International Education”

I am delighted to be presenting at the NAFSA eConnection on “The Diverse U.S. Culture, Heritage Languages, and International Education.”

Special thanks to everyone at NAFSA for having developed the eConnection to empower international educators from around the world to continue the conversation and to work together even during the global pandemic.

NAFSA 2020 Poster

What future for the French language in the United States? — A Guest Post from the American Journal of French Studies

I am honored today to have as my guests the members of the American Journal of French Studies (AJFS) team.



A difficult language

Learning the French language demands a lot of motivation. Here, in Louisiana, thousands of students, largely because of their French heritage, immerse themselves in French culture through French immersion programs.  That’s only one of the good reasons to start learning French. The parents play a crucial role at the beginning of this academic journey, and who does not listen to his parents? It came to our attention, though, that the difficulties inherent in the French language (grammar, vocabulary, syntax) make the students more prone to abandon or give up, sometimes switching to what they consider a more employable or easier language: Spanish. French is hard, and French people will not deny that. Even in acclaimed newspapers such as Les Echos, or Valeurs Actuelles, numerous mistakes can be spotted every week. Learning French is also difficult to justify because of the very few employment opportunities which are available in North America: there is only one Québec, and the dream of one day having students study French to improve their employment opportunities can more easily be realized through the enactment of laws making French one of the official languages in the targeted areas.

Another way to improve employment opportunities would be to go beyond academic partnerships between universities and schools, and promote alliances between higher education institutions and French businesses. Who has ever seen on one’s campus employers such as LVMH, Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Véolia, Total, Transdev, Saint Gobain, Sodexo, Alstom, EDF, PSA, Accor, Dassault Systèmes, Pernod Ricard, Ubisoft, Capgemini? Not us, not you.

Another problem with the French language is the ability to practice one’s oral and written skills. French conversation groups exist on Facebook and in real life but there is no free French government sponsored group. French classes at the Alliances Françaises are quite expensive, and it is through the internet that people find ways to practice a foreign language.

There is a need for French companies to better communicate their employment opportunities and to expand their presence throughout the United States across campuses.  When managing directors in these aforementioned companies, who are often French, need to talk to their regional directors or their sales people, American employees able to speak French would definitely help avoid any miscommunication, and make business leaders more comfortable when they need to make business decisions. It is not easy to explain things in English to a Frenchman who lives in France, especially if the situation requires lot of jargon and complex details. Furthermore, cultural barriers fall when two people are able to speak French, and many specific details which would be left out in an English conversation would never be ignored when a Frenchman is spoken to in French. In other words, French in America needs more involvement from French businesses. If every French business in America mentions in their job offers that speaking French is either recommended or required, and communicates such demands to the Career Center of every university in the state where they operate, there is little doubt that French programs would be enhanced. If the French government is really willing to improve the status of the French language in the United States, they need to give more to American students. Creating a “national talent program,” which would give the opportunity to not just a few, but thousands of American, to do a 3-month internship in France, would strengthen not only the language itself, but also the economic ties between the two countries. Business relationships are easier when people have been exposed in a significant way to French culture. Time is money. If French businesses and the French government are able to show that speaking French can help to make a few extra bucks or even a good salary, we will see lots of people waiting in line to study in French classes.

What can the Francophone world offer to American students?

First, being a team player. Why don’t we see more initiatives involving not just France, but also other francophone countries? There is a need to create a G6 of the Francophonie, in which decisions will be easier to make and to implement, with a significant budget: Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Monaco and Switzerland need to collaborate more when one of them intends to organize cultural events or academic exchanges, and develop business relationships. Who would say no to a Master or a Bachelor that brings you access to 6 different countries? Which business would say no to an agreement which would allow them immediate access to the markets of 6 countries, providing that it meets a required quota of French-speaking employees? Such an alliance would easily convince stellar students to choose a francophone way of life during their academic experience, and to bring a taste and a love for Francophone culture back to the U.S.

Secondly, francophone culture should be heavily promoted: Americans are very fond of French arts, castles, historic sites, food and wines, but also French cities such as Bordeaux, Paris, Lyon or even the French Riviera. French brands are also displayed in numerous online videos and praised by younger generations. In a recent TV Netflix show, Outer Banks, the characters even speak French for a few seconds. Not Spanish, not Chinese, but French. This also shows where French officials should invest their money when it comes to promoting French culture: on the Internet. Our smartphones give us access to numerous applications, which enable us to learn and interact in a new language (HelloTalk, Duolinguo, Babbel). Websites, podcasts, streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Disney+, Apple TV, Twitch, are go-to platforms where Americans should be able to easily find French content.

Once, in Poitiers, our team met a young French couple. They were both working at the local plant.  They had never traveled outside of the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine but they were able to speak perfect English! How was that possible? They responded that they loved to spend hours every day after dinner watching American TV-shows on Netflix. Their English was near-fluent, even though they had never visited a single English-speaking country, and never got a degree beyond high school. They became very good at English by sitting for hours on their couch! Think about it: today, French people are keen on watching American TV shows such as Game of Thrones, Hollywood, Stranger Things, House of Cards and Black Mirror – but why? Because they represent the best of the many TV shows offered in English!

France has always largely subsidized the movie industry. It is now time to spur on a new generation of film-makers, whose movies will be watched on Netflix and other online platforms. Such initiatives should encapsulate cultures of the G6 countries. There are countless things to explore in the Belgian, Canadian, Luxembourgish, Monacan and Swiss cultures. Lots of students at LSU shared with us that they started learning French after watching movies in French featuring classical actors and actresses such as Audrey Hepburn, or Alain Delon, or listening to songs by Jacques Brel. Kid and teenage-friendly movies and music should be encouraged and promoted.

Thirdly, artificial intelligence should not be ignored: its applications encompass a wide range of industries, and the language learning industry would benefit a great deal from public and private investments directed at improving the interactions between a machine and a learner. For instance, it is realistic to expect that one day, a child will learn a language by talking and texting to a software program, which will impersonate a character, and will not only converse with the child, but also correct his or her mistakes in real time. Artificial intelligence companies such as Deep Mind, and its parent company Alphabet, have made tremendous progress in the machine learning process and their work should inspire higher education institutions as well as governments eager to help people learn new languages. If such technology would be accessible through Virtual Reality, there is no doubt that lots of students would enjoy talking or writing for hours to a safe friend who would guide them progressively from a beginner level to a fluent level in French.

The American Journal of French Studies

Where does the American Journal of French Studies stand? Our mission is first to promote the French language in the United States through excellence in written French. We believe that the greatest French writers such as Balzac, Chateaubriand, Hugo, Dumas, Laclos, Flaubert, Maupassant, Stendhal, Verne, Zola, or even Delpit should be read and studied to inspire generations of Americans to write their own poems and novels in French. This mission relies on the willingness of students to compose in literary French. We indeed believe that in order to capture the essence of the French language in all of its nuances – to master it, and feel comfortable with it – there is a path to follow.  It is the same one that French elites have taken: combining the reading of classical texts with the watching of entertaining movies. Students need not only to frequently watch new francophone TV shows, but also to read classic French books, master them, and use the newly acquired vocabulary and grammar tools to become a voice in the Francophone world. Being able to express oneself in an elaborate and nuanced manner is the best way to be listened to and read by leaders and potential employers.

Our audience is wide: high school, undergraduate and graduate students, adults and professors of French studies; all play an integral part in the success of our Academic Journal. Students are invited to submit their poems, shorts novels and academic papers, and professors are invited to discuss their research. We build new bridges every day between the academic world and French learners.

Furthermore, we do believe that videos and arts should also be used in the learning process. That’s why we also publish exclusive interviews of professors of French Studies for our members on a wide variety of topics: from slavery in Louisiana to hip-hop culture in the French suburbs.

Our academic journal is unique because it offers young students a platform to be published. Usually reserved for PhD students, professors and scholars, most Academic Journals – perhaps all – do not accept submissions from students whose ages range from 10 to 20 years old. It is an unfortunate situation as many hidden French gems can be found within this group of students. Our academic journal also offers prize money every year for the winners of our grand concours de litérature, and we actively use social media to connect the general public with this heterogenous group of American students, scholars and French speakers. Our desire in the long term is to be a new type of Academic Journal, one which acts as a merger of Scribd, Youtube, HelloTalk, and Netflix.  We aim to be a hub where learners have access to research papers that explain the most obscure topics of French literature, as well as novels and poems, interviews of francophone leaders, and exchange ideas in French through dedicated forums.

We hope that our enterprise will inspire French enthusiasts to join us and become members of the Journal. The money we receive through subscriptions is used to award monetary prizes to students and cover the maintenance costs of the website. We aspire to operate in every state in the country and help every student to be introduced to the wonderful francophone culture!