Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Kathy @ the MCTLC Conference in Minneapolis

I am just back from the MCTLC (Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures) Fall Conference where I presented on “Foreign Language as a Global Competency,” the area of my doctoral research and subsequent research and writing.

Flying out of NJ early on Friday, I arrived at the beautiful and historic Earle Brown Heritage Center in time to attend the inspirational keynote address on the revitalization of endangered indigenous languages, which emphasized the impact of language loss on a people and a culture. Although the address described an Ojibwe immersion program, it transcended the local,  causing me to see connections with  examples in my own personal experience — the historical suppression of the Irish language, the journey of the French language in North America, and the relatively rapid loss of language experienced by so many immigrant groups, including the German of my father’s family.

It is my personal and professional belief that immersion programs, such as the one described by the keynote speaker, as well as those in the NYC public schools often referred to as the “bilingual revolution,” and in other locations across the US and beyond, are critical in staving off, and even reversing, language loss.

After visiting with my AATF Minnesota friends at their table and enjoying the exhibit area, I attended several sessions throughout the day, as well as the awards luncheon before delivering my own presentation in the late afternoon.  Although it was difficult to choose among the many sessions offered, I found the session on authentic texts and tasks in the French language classroom, the session on integrating technology in order to increase student engagement and achievement in the foreign language classroom, and session on Twitter for language teachers interesting, well prepared, and well presented.  In addition to being an opportunity to talk with like-minded foreign language educators, the awards luncheon was especially inspiring in the authenticity and depth of feeling I observed among the presenters, the recipients, and the many foreign language education students present.

The snowy weather contrasted with the warm welcome I received from the many MCTLC members, organizers, and student volunteers I had the opportunity to meet that day.

Special thanks to Daryl and Lisa at MCTLC for having inspired me to submit a proposal, and to Lily, my presider and a Fulbright student from Paris at the U. of St. Thomas. Many thanks to those who took the time on Friday afternoon to attend my presentation on the Many Languages One World Essay Contest and Global Youth Forum (MLOW).

Languages do matter!

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