I am so happy to have been able to meet and to discuss the importance of foreign language learning with knowledgeable and dedicated foreign language educators across the country and from beyond our borders during the spring semester.
In addition to my own presentations on the role of foreign language advocacy at the MLA (Modern Language Association), FLAME (Foreign Language Association of Maine), CSCTFL (Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), and SWCOLT (Southwest Conference on Language Teaching) conferences, I attended many interesting and informative sessions, plenary sessions, and keynotes. The opportunity to re-connect with old friends and colleagues and to make new friends in Chicago, my hometown of NYC, Portland (Maine), Columbus (Ohio), Fort Worth, and San Francisco, was beyond amazing.
The CIES conference offered an opportunity to take the conversation about the significance of multilingualism in global citizenship and as a global skill, and in particular, in education for sustainability to a broader, international community of scholars, educators, and practitioners.
In addition to the conferences, I was also able to attend the annual ASFAP (American Society of the French Academic Palms) annual meeting, where I was invited, along with Fabrice Jaumont, French educational attaché and my esteemed co-author, to speak briefly about our new book, The Gift of Languages: Paradigm Shift in U.S. Foreign Language Education, the ASFAP luncheon at NECTFL, and the AATF Region II meeting with Madame Bénédicte de Montlaur, cultural counselor of the French Embassy, and Karl Cogard, education attaché, at Albertine, located in the landmark Payne Whitney mansion.
First and foremost, it is important to remember that we are not alone, and that every one of us can and should be a foreign language advocate — as educators, as citizens, and within the state, regional, and national framework of our professional organizations.
Lest we forget that French is the second most widely studied language in the US and around the world, one of the top 3 languages of international business, and one of the 2 global languages, the importance of leadership for French language educators demonstrated by the recognition of two prominent AATF leaders as leaders within the broader profession this spring, as well as selection of a French language educator as CSCTFL Teacher of the Year.
Another key takeaway, put most clearly into focus at a CIES plenary session, is the importance of internationalization of US higher education curriculum across the disciplines, encouraging students to envision their own studies within the broader global context. This translates (no pun intended! 🙂) into the need for continued study of one or more additional languages beginning at the earliest grade levels to proficiency before students reach college and university age so that they are able to use their linguistic skills and cultural knowledge within their disciplines and into graduate study in more meaningful study abroad and experiential learning and as tools to facilitate reading and research beyond English-language and translated source materials.
Among the many memorable experiences was the opportunity to attend the FLAME conference — the vibrancy of Franco-American language and culture is palpable and inspirational, AATF-Maine chapter president Nathalie Gorey was recognized with the organization’s leadership award, and I was invited to attend the AATF-Maine annual meeting. Another memorable moment was being able to congratulate AATF’s own Sister Mary Helen Kashuba on being selected for the leadership award at the NECTFL conference. It was also memorable to be part of the regional and national conversation at CSCTFL, “the friendly conference,” and at MLA, respectively, and to be present for the performance of a talented young mariachi group at the SWCOLT conference.
The settings for these informative and well-organized conferences were perfect in every way, ranging from beautiful Casco Bay in Maine to the iconic and scenic San Francisco Embarcadero. While the opportunity to experience the atrium of the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco re-awakened memories of a movie filmed there that foreshadowed the tragedy of 9/11, the opportunity to stay in the hotel where JFK stayed on his last night and to visit the JFK Tribute memorial in Fort Worth brought tears to my eyes and reinforced my realization of the importance of all our voices in bringing about a resurgence of foreign language learning in the US.
Special thanks to Madame Bénédicte de Montlaur, cultural counselor of the French Embassy, for having received our AATF Region II group at Albertine, and for facilitating our conversation with herself and with Karl Cogard, educational attaché. I very much appreciate having been included in this important conversation on the French language and on French language learning in the US.
Special thanks to the conference organizers at MLA, FLAME, CSCTFL, SWCOLT, and CIES for the opportunity for the opportunity to participate as a presenter. Special thanks also to everyone who attended my presentations and participated in our conversations about the importance of foreign language learning and how we can work together to get the word out. Special thanks to the ASFAP NYC team. Many thanks to NECTFL for the privilege of serving as a member of the advisory council.
Languages do matter!