Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

UI graduate Jennifer Croft wins Man Booker International Prize for translation of Polish novel

“Jennifer Croft, a graduate of the Iowa MFA program in Literary Translation, has won the Man Booker International Prize for her translation of the Polish novel “Flights.”

She is the first program graduate to win this award, which is given annually to a work of fiction that has been translated into English and published in the United Kingdom in the last calendar year.”

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Languages do matter!



“MOVING TO A new country can be hard. You don’t know the language. Cultural differences create conversational landmines. And you just can’t be sure that everyone will like you. As it turns out, that as true for people as it is for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, which officially sets up residence in France today.”

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Languages do matter!

The unexpected philosophy Icelanders live by

“If Iceland were to have a national slogan, it would be ‘þetta reddast’, which roughly translates to the idea that everything will work out all right in the end.”

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Languages do matter!

Over 28,000 views for “Language Matters” — Thank you!!!

Many thanks for over 28,000 views and nearly 18,000 visits for “Language Matters.”

Thank you all for your views, visits, and comments.  🙂

Languages do matter!

Can you lose your native language?

“It’s possible to forget your first language, even as an adult. But how, and why, this happens is complex and counter-intuitive.

In children, the phenomenon is somewhat easier to explain since their brains are generally more flexible and adaptable. Until the age of about 12, a person’s language skills are relatively vulnerable to change. Studies on international adoptees have found that even nine-year-olds can almost completely forget their first language when they are removed from their country of birth.

But in adults, the first language is unlikely to disappear entirely except in extreme circumstances.”

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Languages do matter!

Presenting at the NAFSA 2018 Conference in Philadelphia

I was delighted to have the opportunity to present on “Global Voices: The Many Languages One World Essay Contest” at the NAFSA 2018 Conference in Philadelphia earlier this week.

For those not already familiar with the Many Languages One World Essay Contest and Global Youth forum, often referred to as MLOW,  it is intended to highlight the role of multilingualism in global citizenship.

NAFSA 2018 poster

It is a  wonderful and unique experience for student participants and for the language educators privileged to work with them, as I have been. Students from around the world have entered the essay contest, writing their essay in a learned second language that is also one of the 6 official languages of the UN.  Finalists are interviewed via Skype, and winners are brought — all expenses paid — to NYC, where they spend about a week in community on a local campus before presenting on one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations — in the learned second language of their winning essay.

While at NAFSA, I was also able to attend an interesting and informative session on “Recent Developments in French Higher Education: Perspectives from IDEX Universities,” and a very interesting  session on international micro-campuses. There were so many interesting sessions offered, I wish I could have attended more of them!

The impressive Exhibit Hall featured exhibits from around the world and was, of course, very well attended.

The stunning and spacious Pennsylvania Convention Center, celebrating its 25th anniversary, was the ideal setting for this major conference, celebrating its 70th anniversary and attended by thousands of international educators from around the world.

Congratulations to NAFSA on a wonderful 70th anniversary conference, and special thanks to the poster fair selection committee for the opportunity to discuss MLOW and its framing concepts with so many dedicated international education professionals from around the world.

Bilingualism, Immersion, and Foreign Language Enrollments –What we need to do to address the US Foreign Language Deficit

In reviewing visits to Language Matters during the first half of 2018, I noticed that — apart from the announcement of 25,000 views, the two most popular posts have been —

Attending a conversation on “The Brain and the Potential of Bilingualism” at Albertine       


“The decline in enrollments appears to be ‘the beginning of a trend rather than a blip’” — From the MLA Newsletter, Spring 2018  

It is my belief that this surge of interest is no accident, but rather a sign of the collective realization that we must maximize the potential for young learners to have access to both traditional foreign language education and to immersion programs, beginning at the earliest grade levels, with continued sequential learning supported through Pre-K/K-12, and with planned transition bridges to college and university, where a variety of pre-professional and interdisciplinary curricula will provide career pathways to careers in language services, international business, STEM, and beyond.

It necessary to continue to develop partnerships among community and other foreign language advocates and stakeholders.

L’union fait la force!


Visiting Parks, Gardens, and Versailles at the Met in NYC

A dreary Friday afternoon was brightened by two special exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC — Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence, and Visitors to Versailles: 1682-1789.

Our first stop after arriving at the museum was Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence, well suited to its setting in the beautiful Robert Lehman wing.  I enjoyed seeing old favorites like A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Le Parc Monceau, as well as works by Monet, Corot, Caillebotte,  and many more within the context of the evolution in garden spaces and in awareness of the green spaces around us.

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Video depicting Monet painting in his famous garden in Giverny, and L’Arroseur arrosé, an early comedy on the trials and tribulations of the garden and its gardener by Louis Lumière, were a wonderful addition to the exhibit.

We then visited Visitors to Versailles: 1682-1789, which highlighted the opulence and grandeur of the Palace of Versailles as it welcomed visitors from Europe, America, and beyond — including Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.

Magnificent though Versailles may have been, the story of its expansion from simple country chateau to world showplace during the reign of Louis XIV, followed by its decline in the years leading up to the French revolution in just over a hundred years, clearly demonstrates the transitory nature of power and influence. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Both exhibits exceeded expectations, bringing back memories of my own visits to Versailles and of time spent in the Jardin des Tuileries and other beautiful green spaces in Paris.

The rest of the afternoon European painting, European sculpture and decorative art, the American Wing, and the Temple of Dendur.

An early, yet memorable, dinner in The Dining Room at the Met, overlooking the obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle, in Central Park, concluded our visit.

We then attended an interesting event at Albertine, located in the nearby Payne Whitney mansion, a conversation on bilingualism and the brain.

The importance of France in world culture and history, and in our own American story, was the recurring theme of the entire day.

Languages do matter!




Attending a conversation on “The Brain and the Potential of Bilingualism” at Albertine

I am so happy to have attended the discussion on bilingualism yesterday evening at Albertine — featuring a conversation between Dr. Fabrice Jaumont and Dr. Ellen Bialystok, and introduced by French Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur, engaging speakers all.

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Speaking before a full house on “The Brain and the Benefits of Bilingualism,” Dr. Bialystok spoke at length on the benefits of bilingualism, reminding us that so many of the world’s people speak one or more additional languages.

In addition to Dr. Bialystok’s insightful remarks and evident depth of feeling on the importance of languages, highlights of the evening included her preference for “monolingual disadvantage” rather than the often-used term “bilingual advantage,” and Dr. Jaumont’s perceptive comment that the monolingual disadvantage can be cured!

Feeling so fortunate to have the opportunity to be in the presence of a scholar whose writings have so often inspired me and who graciously and thoughtfully answered many, many questions from those present,  I asked what advice she would offer to parents, educators, language advocates, and other language stakeholders. Her reply was — “confidence” — that we should be “confident” in making our case for languages in our schools and communities.

Every revolution begins with one person — an old, but true saying.

We are, indeed, fortunate, to have had the privilege of learning about the most current research on bilingualism from Dr. Bialystok, and for having in our metropolitan NYC area a leader and “bilingual revolutionary” in Dr. Fabrice Jaumont.

The conversation resonated with me both personally and professionally.

Growing up in a North Jersey community where bilingualism in Spanish and English was the norm, and later serving as my hometown’s first bilingual public library director, bilingualism has been a lifelong interest.

Living for some years in Québec, where bilingualism in French and English is part of the Canadian way, I was inspired by research and teaching at Université Laval and its Centre international de recherches sur le bilinguisme led by Dr. William Mackey, which drove my own graduate research on comparative stylistics in French and English under the direction of noted scholar and expert Jean-Louis Darbelnet.

Many thanks to the French Cultural Services and to French Cultural Counselor Bénédicte de Montlaur for having organized this event, and special thanks to Dr. Fabrice Jaumont and to Dr. Ellen Bialystock for this significant conversation.

Languages do matter!

Delighted to have received my copy of my article, “Maximizing Study Abroad,” in the May issue of Language Magazine

DelightedLang mag 05-18 2 to have received my copy of my article, “Maximizing Study Abroad,” in the May issue of Language Magazine.

Languages do matter!

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