Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Monthly Archives: April 2019

Top 5 countries with highest positive experiences (World is angry and stressed, Gallup report says)

Latin American countries including Paraguay, Panama and Guatemala topped the list of positive experiences, where people reported “feeling a lot of positive emotions each day.”

The poll claims it is reflective of the cultural tendency in Latin America to “focus on life’s positives”.

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Languages do matter!

Foreign Language Advocacy — The Conversation from NYC to San Francisco This Spring

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.

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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.

Key Takeaways

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

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!





Over 13,000 views of “Foreign Language Classes Becoming More Scarce” — Thank You!

Over 13,000 views — Thank You!

“Of all the skills that a person could have in today’s globalized world, few serve individuals – and the larger society – as well as knowing how to speak another language.

People who speak another language score higher on tests and think more creatively, have access to a wider variety of jobs, and can more fully enjoy and participate in other cultures or converse with people from diverse backgrounds.

Despite all these reasons to learn a foreign language, there has been a steep decline in foreign language instruction in America’s colleges and universities. ”

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Languages do matter!

Kathy presenting at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) 2019 conference on education for sustainability in San Francisco

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to present on “Multilingualism and the Sustainable Development Goals — Many Languages One World” in a round table session on Critical Pedagogy for Sustainable Education at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) 2019 conference on education for sustainability in San Francisco.

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MLOW’s focus on thesignificance of multilingualism in global citizenship, and its emphasis on student research and writing in a learned second language that is also one of the 6 official UN languages, on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, highlight both the need for communication across cultures and languages, and for an interdisciplinary approach, if we are to effectively address complex global issues like sustainability.

In addition to being a transformational experience for all participants — both student winners and staff like myself,  French language facilitator, the MLOW effect continues to be demonstrated by both ongoing international involvement and international mindedness of the students, and ongoing friendships and local mini-reunions among the students.

Many thanks to the conferences organizers for having included my presentation, and special thanks to the other presenters in the round table, as well as to all those who attended the session.

While at the conference, I attended the plenary session on the internationalization of US higher education, which I found very interesting and insightful, and  I thoroughly enjoyed the poster session and the extensive exhibit area.

The scope of the program of this well-organized and very well-attended conference was more than impressive, as were the hospitality and welcome of the conference volunteers and staff, and the friendliness of the participants.

The setting, in the iconic Hyatt Regency Hotel, on San Francisco’s historic and scenic Embarcadero, was both beautiful and inspirational.


Languages do matter!

Kathy talking about her book at the annual ASFAP meeting in NYC

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to speak briefly, with my co-author, Fabrice Jaumont, about our new book, “The Gift of Languages,” at the annual ASFAP meeting at the Bistro Vendôme in NYC, and to sign copies for interested members.

Many thanks to all my friends at the American Society of the French Academic Palms for their warm welcome and special thanks to our NYC team of officers for arranging the charming (and tasty!) setting once again this year at the Bistro Vendôme.

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It has been a great honor for me to have been able to work with Fabrice Jaumont on this book project, and I learned a great deal from working with him.

Bilingualism is so important for our students, our communities, and our society, and support for language learning is growing among educators, government and business leaders, and– most of all — parents.

As Fabrice has written in his book, The Bilingual Revolution: The Future of Education is in Two Languages,  “dual-language education is a universal good that ought to be developed everywhere, as it can positively transform a child, a family, a community, and even a country.”

Attaché de coopération éducative Karl Cogard has spoken recently about the importance of Professional French, and of French initiatives to support the development of Professional French curriculum across the disciplines.

And just last week, Madame Bénédicte de Montlaur, conseillère culturelle de l’Ambassade de France aux États-Unis, has written — in the New York Times — that “The necessity of foreign-language education could not be clearer right now.  The future in America, and everywhere, is multilingual. And so is the present.”

Our responsibility is equally clear — first and foremost to defend and to promote the learning and use of French in the US, but also to work together to make foreign language learning accessible to all and to support language learning and the campaigns for foreign language learning at the state, regional, and national level — especially Lead with Languages

Let’s do this for our children and for our future!

Languages do matter!

Kathy’s new article, “For the Children’s Sake,” in Language Magazine

I am so happy that my newest article, “For the Children’s Sake,” is in the April issue of Language Magazine.

Languages do matter!