Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Monthly Archives: April 2020

Language as Superpower — A Guest Post by Amanda J. Haste, PhD

I am honored to have today as my guest my friend, and mentor to independent scholars everywhere, Amanda J. Haste.

Amanda Haste, PhD is an Anglo-French translator specializing in academic and musical texts, and teaches at Aix-Marseille University. As an independent researcher she has published widely on identity construction through music and language, and currently serves as President of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars (NCIS). 

AJ la francaise

It’s fair to say that languages have always played a big part in my life, so I would like, if I may, to present quite a personal story of a(n accidental) life in languages.

Born in London, England, of a polyglot father and a mother who spoke genteel French, languages have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. My parents had met in Paris and, when they wanted to discuss something delicate, this would be preceded by meaningful looks and “pas devant les enfants” and they would proceed to speak in French. However I soon found I could get the gist, at which point they switched to Italian….the only problem there being that, while my father was fluent, my mother spoke very little Italian, and Dad’s gesticulations and non-verbal cues gave me as much context as I needed. They were soon forced to abandon Italian, resorting to sending me out of the room instead. So from my earliest years I had this notion of language as a code: if you understood it you were included; if you didn’t, you were left in the dark.

Always curious, my frequent questions about the meaning of various words inevitably led to my father launching into a long and complex explanation of the etymology. Unlike my siblings I was more fascinated than bored, and I loved that Dad would give me the classical origins of a word, and then go on to tell me how it had evolved in various modern languages. He read Greek and Latin, was fluent in French and Italian, and had a good working knowledge of German, Spanish and Portuguese. As a consequence of his mini-lectures, it became second nature for me to look to other languages – particularly the classics – to work things out for myself. When we were offered an enormous number of Sunday School team points if we came back the next week with “a word for the first five books of the Bible” I ran home to look in the dictionary, having already concluded that the word MUST begin with either quinta- or penta-. The first option drew a blank, but my hunch was right and I won the points with pentateuch. I also remember being particularly proud, aged about eight, to have worked out the meaning of ‘procrastinate’: if pro meant towards, and cras (L.) meant tomorrow, well…..

Unfortunately, my Dad was not a born teacher, and was frustrated by my amateurish attempts to speak and write other languages. One time I sent him a postcard from Italy, and when I asked if he’d received it he showed it to me, complete with all my mistakes circled in red.

I pursued languages at school, taking French, Latin and Greek, but when it was suggested that I make a career in languages my mother could only come up with the idea of my becoming a bilingual secretary, and that sounded dreadfully dull. Odd, then, that I later found out that during the war my father’s language skills had led to his being deployed as an interpreter at the highest level; he later joined the diplomatic corps, serving as Vice-Consul in Milan and Turin. But nobody mentioned interpreting or translation as a career choice – maybe I never asked him, as he was so critical of my nascent skills.  However, music was also a great love and I became a professional musician (yep, lots of Italian involved there…).

After thirty years of performing and teaching I met my (British) second husband and moved to Switzerland where he was working. Oh joy! A country with four languages: French, Italian, German and Romansch! My French was already reasonable, I had some Italian, but my German was non-existent; needless to say we lived near Zurich, in the German-speaking region. But in this multilingual country everything was written in at least three, if not all four official languages, so everywhere I went I was faced with parallel texts – a real Rosetta Stone moment! Unfortunately, despite the linguistic richness it was abundantly clear that my role was to support my husband in his career – these expectations of the role of women have been described as Kinder, Küche, Kirche [children, kitchen, church] – and my lack of fluency in German also presented an enormous block to finding work. Even my title of Frau Doktor Haste referred not to my own doctorate in musicology but to that of my husband!

After a few years in Switzerland, my husband was headhunted to France. I was reluctant: I was just coming to terms with life in Switzerland, my German was coming along, and I didn’t want to move. But in the end we went, and I’m so glad we did! Liberté, égalité, fraternité, but particularly égalité homme-femme. In France I could be myself and achieve my potential, but the biggest difference was that I had the necessary language skills on which to build, namely a solid grasp of French grammar. My written French was still reasonable, though I’d last studied or used it some thirty years before, and though I struggled with oral comprehension I avoided the English-speaking bubble of ex-pat clubs and cultivated only French-speaking friends. I listened to French radio, engaged bemused shopkeepers in conversation, and spent many hours at social occasions at which I understood very little and would come home exhausted from the effort. But after about six months I realized I was understanding more and more, and within a year I was reasonably fluent, and this enabled me to create a two-fold teaching practice, with students in both EFL and music; they were all Francophone, so I taught music in French and EFL bilingually.

My evolving fluency also allowed me to begin translating FR-EN, first pro bono and then professionally, and translation now provides my main source of income. And in a wonderful stroke of luck, a chance encounter at a research seminar led to an invitation to teach practical and literary translation for the DEMA [Département des etudes du monde anglophone] at a French university, and then for the Music Department at the same university. I have now devised and taught courses bilingually in several subjects at undergraduate and graduate level, but those that are closest to my heart are the ones that marry my two loves of music and language.

Eleven years after arriving in France, we are now totally integrated, and in October 2019 became French citizens. Language fluency has been absolutely key to my professional life, our personal social life, and our assimilation into – and absorption of – French culture. My experiences of the role of languages in our cultural understanding of a place and its people intrigue me and have informed my research: among my publications are several on personal identity through language – especially in music. Having moved from England, establishing a musical career in Switzerland was a non-starter because I simply didn’t have enough German to communicate effectively. On arriving in France, I naively assumed that music was an international, supralinguistic form of communication, and that the common Italian terms used in music would suffice for conveying tempo, mood, form of attack. But what I found was a French musical culture that was completely at odds with the way I was used to describing music, so in order to have a musical life here in France I have effectively had to learn “musical English” to arrive on the same wavelength as my fellow musicians. Result? Not only the joy of playing in a thriving French saxophone quartet but also a role teaching ESP (English for Specific Purposes) to undergraduate and postgraduate music students and musicologists for academic and professional purposes, and publishing on English as a Musicological Language. But that’s another story…

Multilingualism is without question a passport to new horizons: it allows us to explore new places, make and understand new friends from different cultures, and explore new opportunities in our personal and professional lives. But multilingualism is also a two-way street: even a basic knowledge of other languages does so much to enrich our understanding of our mother tongue. (It was only when we had some new guttering fitted to our house in France that the penny dropped: gutter = gouttière, the thing that collects the gouttes, or drops. How could I have lived in France for almost ten years without working that out?!) And yes, having bored my children with etymological derivations it’s now the turn of the grandchildren…except that in their eyes this has become my superpower, because I can almost always tell them what the spells in Harry Potter actually mean, and what the characters’ names (e.g. Lord Voldemort, Draco Malfoy) signify.

Language skills are indeed a superpower. The lack of them constricts and limits us, but with them we can fly.

My Palmes decoration ceremony at Albertine — thoughts two years later

It hardly seems that two years have already passed since I received the Palmes decoration from Madame Bénédicte de Montlaur, conseillère culturelle, at the historic Albertine on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, and almost three years since it was awarded. It was a memorable day, and the greatest honor I have ever received, for which I will be forever grateful.

Palmes deco 04-27-18 2

It was a mild Spring day, but cloudy and damp, typical of New York, and so different than this Spring, which has been unlike all others.

While I have had a lifelong affection for the French language and have striven to work with even more dedication as a French language advocate since receiving the award, the current COVID-19 pandemic has made foreign language learning, use, and advocacy more challenging — and even more necessary — in the current locked-down and virtual environment.

Once the initial shock of the sudden shutdown of schools, colleges, and universities had passed, like so many others, I turned to online resources and social media to share information on language and cultural learning with current and potential French language learners @ home.

At the same time, having had the opportunity to discuss what it is like to be Francophone in North America on the North American Francophone podcast, I realized that this blog could play a role, and even to help, in supporting the conversation on language learning and use among language stakeholders. For that reason, several experts and scholars, thought leaders and influencers, reflecting a wide range of interests and a shared passion for language and languages, have graciously contributed wonderful guest posts — that I greatly appreciate.

It is likely that — even after the current crisis has passed — the virtual classroom and the virtual conversation will remain, and continue to play an even greater role in protecting and promoting language learning  for all and language use in our society.


Read more @


Languages do matter!

Advancing Internationalization at Home Through Campus-based Multilingual Connections — Guest Post by  Stephanie Doscher, Ed.D

I am honored to welcome as my guest today, Stephanie Doscher, international educator and advocate, Director of Global Learning Initiatives, Florida International University.

Advancing Internationalization at Home Through Campus-based Multilingual Connections

 Stephanie Doscher, Ed.D

Director of Global Learning Initiatives, Florida International University

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

–Nelson Mandela

Doscher photo 04-25-20

The lingua franca of education in the United States is English. Yet in approximately 21% of American homes, a language other than English is spoken. Home is where the heart is. A monolingual campus culture sends a message to our students, faculty, and staff that their minds are welcome at school, but part of their hearts should be left at home. What would happen if we allowed our faculty, students, and staff to bring their whole selves to campus? What would it be like if invited people to bring their home languages with them to school?

These questions are especially on my mind when I contemplate the near- and medium-term implications of COVID-19 for the internationalization of higher education. Internationalization is the process of connecting the institution, and the people within it, to the world’s knowledge exchange and production network (Hawawini, 2012). Traditionally, internationalization is an outward-facing activity, mostly concerned with moving people across geographic borders to teach, learn, and conduct research with diverse others. But there’s another approach to internationalization, and that is Internationalization at Home. Ideas can cross borders even when people can’t. And the borders that separate people and their ideas are not always geographic—they can be cultural, disciplinary, and linguistic, too. Borders exist within our campuses, communities, and nations, as well as between them.

People connect across borders of difference primarily through language. When we make our campuses monolingual, we deny our students, staff, and faculty access to diverse people and ideas located in close proximity to them. Fostering multilingualism on campus should be at the top of every international education leader’s to-do list. Part of this work involves language education. But equally important is language illumination—highlighting the vast language diversity and capacity that already exists on our campus.

Internationalization is about connecting diverse people and their ideas. We can advance Internationalization at Home and abroad by fostering multilinguistic connections in our classrooms and in the greater campus community. Here are five suggestions for how we can do this right away:

 Map the Language Landscape

The University of Arizona’s Language Capital Project is an interdisciplinary effort to portray the campus’ linguistic diversity. The project’s goals include helping native speakers locate each other, presenting resources for language learners, and promoting least commonly taught languages.

 Present Multilingual Media and Communications

A campus’ language landscape includes what people see and hear around them. Create language connections through multilingual signage and digital and print materials, world music in performances and public spaces, and speaker and film series. Encourage American Sign Language and bilingual interpretation at events. At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, students survey landscapes to identify opportunities to honor linguistic diversity.

Facilitate Multilingual Events Throughout the Year, Not Just One Day

Large-scale, signature events such as Florida International University’s Language Day bring together multiple campus partners for a year-long planning process. But how can campus partnerships promote multilingualism throughout the year? The University of Pittsburgh has a great list of ways to incorporate language connections into social activities on- and off-campus.

Facilitate Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL)

With COIL, also known as ‘virtual exchange,’ faculty located in different countries partner to develop a project that their students will complete together using common communication technology, such as WhatsApp and Google Docs. COIL collaborations demand that students negotiate cultural, linguistic, and disciplinary differences, just as they will throughout their personal, professional, and civic lives. This free webinar explores the relationship between COIL and other campus internationalization activities.

 Promote Conversational Mastery

Being able to say “hello,” “how are you,” and “have a nice day” to someone in their home language is the first step toward connection and trust. Many colleges and universities subscribe to free language learning software. Some of these applications offer digital badges that can be incorporated into coursework, resumes, and digital profiles and portfolios.

The COVID-19 crisis forces colleges and universities to set aside many of their dominant practices and turn to little known or under-utilized strategies to reach their goals. When it comes to internationalization, we are presented with an extraordinary opportunity to lift one of the most powerful tools in our toolbox—campus-based multilingualism.











“Louisiana Perspectives” — Guest Post by Joseph Dunn

I am honored today to have as my guest Joseph Dunn, thought leader, influencer, advocate, and activist in support of French language and Francophone culture in Louisiana. He is the former Director of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana/le Conseil pour le développement du Français en Louisiane (CODOFIL).

le 24 avril 2020 : Contribution au blogue “Language Matters”

Lorsque Kathleen m’a proposé de contribuer un article à “Language Matters” je ne savais vraiment pas comment m’y attaquer parce que je craignais que mon ton “râleur” ne prenne le dessus de ce que j’avais à dire.

C’est néanmoins vrai que nous qui travaillons aux Etats-Unis dans le domaine de la promotion du/des français sommes confronté.e.s tous les jours à des idées reçues sur la valeur et l’utilité d’apprendre et de parler ces langues qui nous tiennent tant à cœur. Comment donc ne pas se retrouver frustré.e.s devant ce bombardement de contradictions vocalisées par des personnes qui ne parlent même pas une variété quelconque de français ?

Je devrais peut-être d’abord préciser que je ne suis ni éducateur ni professeur de français, ce qui me permet — du moins, je pense — d’avoir une perspective un peu différente de celle que pourraient avoir mes amis et collègues qui passent leur temps dans une salle de classe. Sur ce, je vous prie d’emblée de bien vouloir me pardonner la nature “conversationnelle” de ce texte. Allez, c’est parti !


Dunn photo 04-24-20

En tant que descendant de colons français arrivés à La Nouvelle-Orléans dans les années 1740, je me suis toujours identifié à l’histoire vécue et développée en Louisiane en langue française et en langue créole (appelé aussi ‘kouri-vini’ dans le vernaculaire). M’étant réapproprié très jeune ces “langues d’héritage” ou “langues de patrimoine” — car ce ne sont point des “langues étrangères” en Louisiane ! — mon travail depuis plus de 26 ans dans les secteurs touristique et culturel en Louisiane tant dans le privé tant au service du publique[1] m’a amené à plusieurs réflexions dont je souhaiterais faire part à la communauté éducative.

1) Les complexités de la Louisiane franco-créolophone historique et contemporaine sont presqu’inconnues, et ce même par les Louisianais. Je dis “franco-créolophone” parce que la dualité linguistique français/créole existait à l’époque, spécialement dans les plantations de canne à sucre le long du Mississippi et à La Nouvelle-Orléans, où les personnes tenues en esclavage et les gens de couleur libres[2] parlaient ces langues autant que les blancs. Cette dualité est toujours perceptible aujourd’hui.

2) La Louisiane franco-créolophone représente une riche mosaïque de plus d’une douzaine de groupes[3] qui pourront se dire d’héritage francophone ou créolophone. Il ne s’agit pas uniquement des réfugiés Acadiens devenus Cadiens[4], mais d’Amérindiens, de colons français, espagnols, belges, suisses, d’esclaves africains, de réfugiés St-Dominguois (qui furent d’ailleurs trois fois plus nombreux que les exilés acadiens), enfin, d’immigrants de toutes parts qui parlaient français avant d’arriver ici ou qui s’y sont mis pour survivre une fois sur le sol de la Louisiane.

3) De nos jours, les identités “Cadien” et “Créole” sont devenues des étiquettes ethno-racio-généalogiques à cause de l’assimilation forcée en anglais imposée à partir de 1921[5], de la ségrégation raciale institutionnelle et de la perte des langues d’héritage et ne sont plus synonymes de “francophone” ou de “créolophone.” Ne cherchez donc pas aujourd’hui à ce que la personne qui se dit “Cadien” ou “Creole” parle l’une de ces langues.

4) En dépit de ce que beaucoup de gens ont tendance à croire, le français en Louisiane n’était jamais “une langue uniquement orale.” Des journaux en langue française furent publiés partout en Louisiane jusqu’au début du 20e siècle.[6] Il existait une littérature florissante en français, en fait, c’étaient des Afro-Créoles louisianais qui ont publié en 1845 le tout premier recueil de poésie[7] écrit par des personnes de couleur aux Etat-Unis, quatre-vingts ans avant la Harlem Renaissance ! Si le français était “juste une langue orale,” l’anglais l’était tout aussi “juste une langue orale” jusqu’à ce que l’éducation devienne obligatoire en 1916 parce que les taux d’alphabétisation chez les francophones et les anglophones étaient similaires. Les parlants français étaient même plus aptes à être alphabétisés en anglais que les monolingues anglophones. Comme quoi…

5) Le nombre de parlants français et/ou créole en Louisiane a chuté d’un million en 1970 à moins de 100,000 aujourd’hui. Cela représente une diminution de 90% en 50 ans parce que ces langues n’ont pas été transmises de manière intergénérationnelle et parce que les Louisianais franco-créolophones de toutes les couleurs et identités diverses n’ont pas su, en raison de la ségrégation institutionnelle et l’assimilation imposée au cours du 20e siècle, se fédérer autour de leurs langues communes pour en faire une force économique et politique.

6) Or, malgré tous les défis et obstacles, les jeunes Louisianais issus des cours de français langue seconde et des écoles d’immersion commencent aujourd’hui à assurer la relève en créant, chantant, écrivant et produisant du contenu imprimé et numérique en langue française et créole. Pour citer quelques initiatives, sans mentionner les innombrables Franco-Louisianais qui sont et qui s’expriment en français, en kouri-vini et en anglais (selon le sujet) sur les différents réseaux sociaux :

-Télé-Louisiane (sur Facebook et Twitter)

-Le podcast/ballado Charrer-Veiller

-Le recueil de poésie “O Malheureuse”[8]


Comme vous pouvez sûrement le constater par cette lecture, je suis passionné par le sujet de ma chère Louisiane et pourrais ainsi continuer sur des pages et des pages. Mais je m’arrête là avec l’espoir de revenir bientôt avec d’autres réflexions.

Si ce petit avant-goût vous a piqué l’intérêt d’en découvrir davantage, je vous invite à consulter mon blogue et si vous avez le courage, de vous aventurer sur mon Twitter à @louisianais1742.

Amitiés franco-louisianaises,

Joseph Dunn

entrepreneur touristico-culturel | activiste franco-créolophone |démythificateur

[1] Joseph Dunn était directeur du Conseil pour de développement du français en Lousiane (CODOFIL) de 2011 à 2014.

[2] Le jazz est né en langue créole, car inventé par des Créoles de couleur.

[3] French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer on Francophone Louisiana; Carl Brasseaux; 2006; Louisiana State University Press

[4] Si vous ne retenez RIEN d’autre de ce texte, cher lecteur, je vous prie de noter que le terme “Cajun” est à éviter en français car c’est une approximation phonétique anglophone de la prononciation franco-louisianaise de “” Cette orthographe fut même reconnue par l’Académie Française lors de l’attribution en 2013 du Prix Henri de Régnier à Kirby Jambon, Cadien et actuel poète lauréat de la Louisiane francophone.

[5] Constitution de l’Etat de Louisiane, adoptée le 18 juin 1921; Article XII;  Section 12 :  “The general exercises in the public schools shall be conducted in the English language.” Malgré la croyance générale, il n’était jamais “illégal” de parler français dans les écoles louisianaises, or, le français fut réétiqueté “langue étrangère” et enseigné comme tel, en dépit du fait que c’était la langue maternelle et quotidienne de la majorité des élèves dans les paroisses du sud de l’état.

[6] Pour une liste avec dates de publication de ces journaux :

[7] Les Cenelles; édité par Armand Lanusse; 1845

[8] O Malheureuse; Ashlee Wilson Michot; 2019; UL Press

The Conversation about languages, language learning, and language use — many voices, one goal

In recent weeks, while so many of us have been @ home, the power of conversation — in this case, the conversation on languages, language learning, and the use of other languages — is profound, even when it has been, because of the current conditions, an online conversation.

At first, overwhelmed by the sudden closure of schools, universities, and libraries, I worked to gather information and generally free resources for language and cultural learning with the goal of helping individuals and families @ home to learn or to re-connect with another language.

However, it was the opportunity to participate in the North American Francophone Podcast early this month, discussing what it means to be Francophone in North America, that led me to invite thought leaders and influencers on language learning and use, in the US and beyond, whom I am honored to call my friends, to inspire us by sharing their thoughts, insights, and experiences with me.

Please join me in welcoming Monique Y. Wells, François Grosjean, Tennessee Bob Peckham, Joseph Dunn, Stephanie Doscher, Amanda J. Haste, Brian Thompson, Guillaume Lacroix, Noah Ouellette, Jesse Martineau, Juliana L’Heureuxthe American Journal of French Studies (AJFS) Team, and most recently, William J. Roberts, who have graciously shared their insights our conversation on “Languages Matters.”

thank you 2

Many thanks to all!

Foreign language advocacy is a broad umbrella, strengthened by many voices and ideas, all with the shared goal of building language skills and use in our homes and communities, in our society, and as global citizens.

May this conversation continue, well beyond the current circumstances!


Read all the fascinating guest posts (in chronological order) @

My Love Affair with the French Language — Guest Post by Monique Y. Wells 

Interview with François Grosjean — A Guest Post

The Survival of Foreign-Language Learning in a Post-Covidian Future — a Guest Post by Tennessee Bob Peckham, PhD

“Louisiana Perspectives” — Guest Post by Joseph Dunn 

Advancing Internationalization at Home Through Campus-based Multilingual Connections — Guest Post by  Stephanie Doscher, Ed.D

Language as Superpower — A Guest Post by Amanda J. Haste, PhD

“Un prof de français un peu bizarre…” — A Guest Post by Brian Thompson, PhD

Interview with Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France to the Midwest in Chicago — A Guest Post

The Renaissance of the Francophonie in New England — A Guest Post by Noah Ouellette

“The French-Canadian Legacy” — A Guest Post by Jesse Martineau

Celebrate French Language Awareness — A Guest Post by Juliana L’Heureux

What future for the French language in the United States? — A Guest Post from the American Journal of French Studies

Musings of a Romance Languages Minor — A Guest Post by Dr. William J. Roberts

Image source  –

The Survival of Foreign-Language Learning in a Post-Covidian Future — a Guest Post by Tennessee Bob Peckham, PhD

I am honored to have as my guest today Dr. Robert Peckham, known with respect and regard by so many of us as “Tennessee Bob,” Founding Chair of the AATF Commission on Advocacy and my esteemed mentor and friend.

Before our covid-19 era foreign-language advocates were fighting to keep states and school districts from declaring coding as foreign language and then substituting it for language requirements. Though this and other pre-pandemic challenges will not go away, the future success of our advocacy must take place in a very-much transformed context. For learners, educators and administrators, it will be, to a certain extent, a new world, rather than a return to normal.

How so? Let’s begin with what was a partial evolution even before the pandemic: a shift toward online and hybrid instruction.  In ” Language Learning in Anonymity – A Digital Dilemma” in my online essay:

College Classroom Foreign-Language Learning: Ubi Vadis?

Tells the story of a growth in whole self-study in online foreign-language programs from the first decade of this century to several hundred by 2016. I used to hear so many good teachers say “You can’t teach a foreign language effectively online”. What happened? The evolution of technology, the inventiveness of teachers, and the need of students.

Because of our current crisis, most post-secondary foreign-language classes are taught online. A number of resourceful foreign-language teachers have already stepped beyond basic Zoom, which was not even available until 2013. They are using virtual breakout. rooms, voice dictation and text-to-voice apps, Flipgrid, Smule , live second-language radio and TV, YouTubes, etc. for instruction that can be synchronous or asynchronous, work as a group, several groups, or independently with or without their teacher, speak with native speakers from outside the class, work with many specifically designed digital resources. Many of these opportunities were just not available to many students in their face-to-face class days.

When the “return to normal” alarm sounds, are they going to want to return to a situation which is not as resource rich, which is not as respectful of their individual strengths and weaknesses, where they do their speaking in front of their classmates, and where they all have to stick to one schedule, even if their new job’s boss wants them to work during a class hour?

These students will have less academic reason to study a foreign language, with fewer language, humanities, distribution of studies requirements requirements than ever before. Those who are meeting a requirement will choose an asynchronous online course, whose flexibility will not conflict with the job they had worked so hard to keep in a post coronavirus recession. Young high-school graduates will come from families where their unemployed parents have no money, and they will wisely have taken a year off education, so there will be few students with the liberty and money to devote a regular schedule to face-to face classes. An important part of the acquisition of a foreign language occurs outside of class, not in a zoom session, but in language-club meetings, road trips, guest speakers, immersion days, internships, and study abroad. What is going to happen to these in post covid-19 learning?

We must be aware, when considering K-12 students, that  there are more than 100,000 school closures affecting nearly 50 million students. A Newsweek article says “According to the most recent Education Department data, 14% of children ages 3-18 – about 9.4 million in total – are without home internet, though other estimates from internet advocacy groups peg that number much higher, at 12 million children.”

“Disconnected and Disadvantaged: Schools Race to Give Students Access (4/1/20).

Lack of funding will further reduce the number of students studying in standard face-to-face classes by reducing the size of program offerings or eliminating the programs themselves. Colleges lost 561 programs between 2013 and 2016. Losses could very well exceed this in the shadow of covid-19. A PBS study alleges “Three-quarters of the $630 billion in endowment funds at U.S. universities and colleges is invested in equities”. By the 20th of last month the Dow had lost over 24% of its value, and endowments were evaporating. But that was not the only financial loss for colleges. Many states in lockdown have been forced to cut education budgets, and colleges themselves had large unexpected covid-related expenses. A KTLA5 article alleges that the University of California incurred over a half a billion dollars of extra expenses in the wake of the pandemic. Part of public college funding comes from state income taxes or sales taxes. Needless to say these sources are evaporating like the jobs of the state residents who pay them.  Already, I am hearing about dips in Fall college enrollments, and planned foreign-language program cuts at both the secondary and post-secondary levels.

Among the strongest arguments is the advantage it gives to job seekers in a marketplace increasingly dominated by global concerns in a country with it’s own financially powerful linguistic diversity. Unfortunately, the pandemic is having a negative effect on the employment of those with language skills. Many translators and interpreters are losing their jobs. Covid-19-related regulations are stunting the growth of foreign-direct investment, and with it some of the high-paying jobs held by Americans in foreign firms with offices and manufacturing facilities located in the U.S.  Since every $1 billion of exports supports about 6000 American jobs, I often use trade figures to underscore the importance of acquiring international skills. However the World Trade organization has recently declared “World trade is expected to fall by between 13% and 32% in 2020 as the COVID 19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world.” (Market Watch 4/19/20)

WTO (4/8/20)

On the other hand, covid-19 is a global problem, which needs international skills to resolve. Our economic recovery will need translators and interpreters to maintain its place in the world. The state department and military will have similar needs. The interest of quarantiners in acquiring a foreign language has created record sales for cloud-based foreign-language apps.

As advocates, what can you do? Monitor your state’s education funding. If you are K-12, see how your district funding has been affected. If you are post-secondary, monitor your institution’s endowment, and its share of state education funding. Monitor your state’s global trade figures:

Explore foreign-direct investment in your state:

Locate jobs where skills in the language you study are needed:

Please keep your eyes on Federal spending, through JNCL-NCLIS.

TennesseeBob Peckham, PhD

Presenting on multilingualism and the SDGs at CIES 2019 — thoughts a year later

I can hardly believe that a year has passed since I was able 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 CIES 2019 conference in beautiful and historic San Francisco.

CIES 04-16-19 6

I continue to firmly believe in the importance of multilingualism in the development of a global citizenship mindset and values and of greater accessibility of foreign language learning for all our children and for learners of all ages.

Not only are language skills of critical importance in our lives as global citizens, but in an increasingly multilingual US, they empower us to communicate with friends and neighbors in their languages and to have more interesting conversations and interactions ever day that we would have had with only one language.

For most of us, knowledge of another language can enable us to re-connect with our own heritage, with the heritage of a loved one, or with one of the languages that form an integral part of our own US history.

Many thanks to everyone who attended my round table session, and special thanks to ny fellow presenters and to CIES for having invited me to participate.

Read more @

Languages do matter!

Researching la France/en français @ home? Tips to up your scholarly game

Ever since I posted The @ Home Language Learner’s Tool Kit earlier this month, I have received questions about, and requests for, free (or mostly free) online research resources for students and scholars @ home, but who still have ongoing research and writing projects.

The following (in alphabetical order) are always available freely and openly on the internet.*

L’Académie française —

Athena —

La Bibliothèque électronique de Lisieux —

Cairn** —  Free abstracts only.

Dictionnaire de l’Académie française —

Directory of Open Access Journals   Over 14K journals, from 133 countries


Études Francophones —

Fabula —  Recherche en littérature

France in America — and

Franco American Library/Bibliothèque Franco-Américaine

French Institute/Institut Français, Assumption College

gallica 2

Gallica  Over 6M documents on line

HathiTrust**  17M items; 7M free; over 600K French-related and free

Louisiane — Lehman College

OpenEdition —

Pascal and Francis Bibliographic Databases  Through 2015.




Some resources in Spanish 

Biblioteca virtual Cervantes —

Real Academia Española —


Read more on language learning @ home —

Spending more time @ home? It’s an opportunity to learn a new language!

Visiting the world while we’re @ home — Why we learn other languages — It’s all about the people!

Why we should learn another language while we’re spending more time @ home

The @ home language learner’s tool kit —



*There are also additional resources that have been made available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

** Partially free.

Interview with François Grosjean — A Guest Post

I am honored to have had the opportunity to interview world-renowned scholar and expert on bilingualism, François Grosjean, for “Language Matters.”

Interview with François Grosjean

Questions asked by Professor Kathleen Stein-Smith

April 13, 2020



In discussing the role of each language in the life of the bilingual person, you have discussed the “Complementarity Principle.” Please explain the dynamic of context and proficiency, and of acquisition and use.

The Complementarity Principle, which I first proposed back in 1985, states that bilinguals usually acquire and use their languages for different purposes, in different domains of life, with different people. Different aspects of life often require different languages.

The principle accounts for many interesting bilingual phenomena. The first is language fluency. If a language is spoken in a reduced number of domains and with a limited number of people, then it will not be developed as much as a language used in more domains and with more people. This is also true of certain language skills such as reading and writing as well as stylistic levels.

Well-learned behaviors are special cases of the principle – counting, doing arithmetic, praying, etc. – since one language usually has exclusive control of that behavior.

Translation is another skill affected by the principle. Unless bilinguals have domains covered by two languages (as do professional translators), or have acquired their other languages via translation equivalents, they may not have the resources to produce an adequate translation.

Children are also influenced by the principle. It explains, in part, why a language is more developed than another, and why children may switch over to the other language during a conversation.

Basically, the complementarity principle is one of the most pervasive aspects of individual bilingualism. It is discussed further in a blog post of mine[1].

In your description of your school years in the UK, you describe your partial loss of French, your first language, later regained when you moved to Paris for your university studies. What advice would you have for heritage speakers, their parents and communities, and for educators and advocates who would like to strengthen proficiency and use of heritage languages?

The very first thing I would propose is that parents, caretakers and educators learn about heritage speakers: they have been exposed to their heritage language at home mainly, and it is often their first language; they have little or no accent in that language; they change language dominance when they start going to school, and with time many will use their home language less and less; their domains of use of their first language may be limited (see the Complimentarity Principle); they become literate in their school language but less often in their first language; many find translating difficult when more specialized language in involved; and many may not be fully bicultural.

I would also propose that language heritage children and adolescents be given heritage language assessments regularly so as to allow caretakers and educators to plan their language curriculum. This will allow them to take advantage of what they already know, what needs to be reinforced, and what needs to be taught.

Lastly, as a heritage language speaker in my youth, I would encourage adults to be extremely supportive of these children. They need to tell them that they understand what they are going through, and that is is just fine to be bilingual the way they are. Their knowledge of their heritage language, often a minority language, is a real asset that they can turn into a lifelong advantage if they work on it in the ways that are proposed to them.

In your book, you described your own path to bilingualism and mentioned some of the strategies you and your wife employed in raising your 2 bilingual and bicultural sons. What advice would you have for parents who would like to raise bilingual and bicultural children, and for communities and advocacy groups that would like to effectively support bilingualism?

When I am asked this question, I usually suggest that parents and other caretakers read a blog post I wrote a few years ago entitled, “Planned bilingualism: Five questions to consider”[2]. In it I discuss when to start a second language (it doesn’t have to be at birth or even in very early childhood), what parental strategy should be used (many are available, with their advantages and disadvantages), whether the child has a real need for the other language (this is probably the most crucial aspect of becoming and staying bilingual), the type and amount of input from each language that is available (without a lot of diversified input, a language will not bloom as easily), and finally, what kind of support parents or caretakers will be able to count on (outside support is crucial).

As for communities and advocacy groups outside the family, I have been impressed lately by dual-language educational movements in the United States spearheaded by parents and educators. The way they are persuading public schools to be involved, thereby ensuring bilingual education free of charge, is a remarkable step forward which I applaud. I interviewed Dr. Fabrice Jaumont about it on my blog.[3]

In addition to your scholarly and academic research in linguistics, you have also written books, articles, and your blog, “Life as a Bilingual,” that are largely accessible to the non-specialist.  Please describe your view of the role of the scholar as advocate and change agent.

I strongly believe that as active researchers we should inform the general public of our research. For too long this has been left to others who simply may not understand the field they are reporting on as well as those involved in it directly.

For example, there are numerous blogs on bilingualism, many of them written by parents of bilingual children, and they are important for families who wish to follow in their footsteps and who are looking for support. But often parents are not themselves researchers in the field of bilingualism and do not always fully understand scientific papers.

Those involved directly in that scholarly work can therefore play a crucial role in getting that knowledge out and explaining their own studies, and those of their colleagues. But in turn, the people who write about such findings must be able to replace them in their context. They must describe them clearly, without too much jargon, and show the impact they have on our everyday life. It is no simple task but if these researchers are also good teachers, and enjoy explaining things to students, then there is a good chance that they will be able to write clear and informative posts.

I have tried to do this in my blog which is now ten years old and has had more than two million visitors. There are some 150 posts that readers can choose from (see here[4] for an index by content).

As you know, in the US, there are between 10M and 20M with French ancestry, of whom 3M speak French in the home. What advice would you offer to those communities and other French-language stakeholders working to strengthen knowledge and use of French in the US.

When I was preparing my first book on bilingualism, Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism[5], I wrote a 70 page chapter on bilingualism in the United States. One of the language groups I concentrated on was Franco-Americans. I realized very quickly that it is in fact a very diverse group made up of subgroups: those in Louisiana (original French settlers, the Creoles, the Cajuns, etc.), those in New England (descendants of French Canadians), as well as more recent speakers of French who have emigrated from European countries but also other parts of the world (the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, etc.).

This very rich diversity, both linguistic and cultural, requires different pedagogical approaches as well as varied support groups. One will simply not teach French in the same way to students who have French as a heritage language, a second or third family language, or no French at all, not to mention all the cultures they originally come from. I do realize that this makes the life of educators and administrators more difficult, but adapting pedagogy to students’ existing knowledge of French, and to where they come from in “la Francophonie”, if at all possible, will be very rewarding in the end.

Do you have any final words for our readers?

Allow me to take them from the Conclusion of my book, Bilingual: Life and Reality[6].

Despite all the myths that still surround bilingualism – bilinguals have equal and perfect knowledge of their languages, bilingualism delays language acquisition in children, real bilinguals have no accent in their different languages, mixing languages is a sign of laziness, etc. – I remain optimistic that things will change.

An increasing number of children and adolescents in the process of becoming bilingual, bicultural, and, for some, biliterate, are now receiving the attention they require.

There are bound to be times when the going will be difficult and frustration will occur, and so it is crucial that children and their parents receive encouragement and assistance.

As bilingual children and adolescents grow older, they must be allowed to talk about what it means to be bilingual and bicultural, and to express some of the difficulties they may be having. Caring and informed adults must accompany them – many already do – and ease their passage from one stage to the next.

I dream of the moment when these young people, who are in the process of becoming adults, will be proud of their languages and cultures, and will be accepted for who they are—bilingual and bicultural individuals, quite simply.


François Grosjean’s website:

And his blog:








My Love Affair with the French Language — Guest Post by Monique Y. Wells 

I am honored to have as my guest today my esteemed co-author and friend, Monique Y. Wells.

Merci, mon amie!


My Love Affair with the French Language by

Monique Y. Wells 

Monique Headshot

Bonjour classe !

Bonjour, Mme Freeman !

Comment allez-vous aujourd’hui ?

Très bien, merci !

This was the routine for the beginning of the French class that I took when I was just 4 years old at Bunnyland A-Cat-A-Me in Houston, Texas.

Exposure to French at that tender age was the beginning of my lifelong love of the language. I went on to study French in high school and to minor in it at the University of Pennsylvania. I always got the highest marks and continued to work on my language skills at the Alliance Française after finishing university. I was proud of the progress I made in learning French!


…the day came when I began organizing a trip to France to search for a job opportunity. I was eagerly looking forward to the possibility of moving there when a simple phone call took all the wind from my sails.

I had a list of telephone numbers for hotels in Paris and began calling to reserve a room. During one of these calls, I was mortified to discover that I was unable to respond to simple questions and did not know what the hotel clerk meant when he described the room as having a “vay say” (WC).

Then and there, I realized that my years of study through primary education and university, the once-a- week sessions at the Alliance Française, and watching the occasional French-language movie offered not nearly enough exposure to the language to permit me to listen to and respond to a French-speaking person in “real time” on the phone.

When I moved to Paris a few months later, I quickly learned that my skills were not sufficient to attend French theater or to fully understand French radio programs. Even “little things” like shopping for food or going to the post office took tremendous concentration and were mentally draining.

Fortunately, my overall experience in the French capital was so stimulating that I didn’t begrudge myself this difficulty. Time passed quickly and my immersion in the language and culture produced positive results. Now, except for situations that require specialized vocabulary that I’ve not been exposed to before, I’m happy with my spoken French.

My love for the French language led me to an employment opportunity that allowed me to move to Paris and to experience a lifestyle that is impossible to find in the U.S. Today, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world!

Dr. Monique Y. Wells is a veterinary pathologist and toxicologist turned non-profit powerhouse who’s transformed her passion for helping others into her purpose.  She and Dr. Kathleen Stein-Smith co-authored the Theory and Practice in Language Studies article entitled “Classes Duo Paris/Knoxville, an Integrative Learning Experience: A Case Study,” which was published in September 2019.  Dr. Wells is President of the French non-profit association Les Amis de Beauford Delaney and Founder and CEO of the Wells International Foundation, a U.S. 501(c)(3) organization.