Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

The AATF Annual Convention and MLOW 2017 — Foreign Language Advocacy at the National and International Level

This has been a wonderful week for French and foreign language advocacy, both at the national and international level.

On Sunday, I travelled to St. Louis for the 90th annual convention of the American Association of Teachers of French, where I was able to attend the opening session on Guadeloupe and identity, catch up with old friends and meet new ones at the Welcome Luncheon in the shadow of the Gateway Arch, participate in an interesting and informative workshop on Guadeloupe and Martinique, meet with members of the Commission on Advocacy, and attend the opening of the Exhibit Hall.

On Monday, as Chair of the AATF Commission on Advocacy, I participated in two official sessions of the Commission.   I co-presented with Founding Chair of the Commission, Bob Peckham, on “Backing into the Future:  Crisis and Promise of College French,” and presented  on “French Language Advocacy:  Interdisciplinary and Global Perspectives.”

I am honored to chair the Commission on Advocacy, which works to support programs at risk, to create and disseminate information on the benefits of French through online and social media, and to advance the information and research agenda through scholarly and practitioner publications.  It is noteworthy that the Commission FB page enjoyed a post reach of over 76K in the month of June alone.

On Tuesday, I began my work as French Facilitator at Many Languages One World (MLOW) 2017 with the 10 French language winners on the beautiful campus of Northeastern University in Boston.  The students were wonderful, and it was a pleasure to advise them as they prepared their presentations on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Our group was assigned Goal #5, “gender equality.”  On Thursday, we traveled to New York and rehearsed the presentations at the Manhattan School of Music, and on Friday, the students delivered their presentations in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations.

After lunch in the Delegates Dining Room, certificates were awarded, and the group finished the day’s activities at the Institute of International Education with a personal pledge of individual everyday actions in support of the Goals followed by a reflection session.

The students were then able to enjoy Friday evening and Saturday in NYC before returning to Boston for several days of sightseeing and educational activities before leaving for home.

I am honored to have served as French Facilitator for all 4 editions of MLOW thus far and fully support the MLOW goals of demonstrating the role and significance of multilingualism in global citizenship and of encouraging continued study of the official languages of the UN.  The camaraderie and teamwork among students from so many countries around the world is inspirational and highlights the importance of multilingualism in the creative process of effectively addressing complex global issues,  and the tradition of ongoing friendships among winners through social media and local mini-reunions gives hope for the future.


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