Yesterday I participated as a presenter in the NAFSA e-seminar on “Global Learning in Foreign Language Instruction: More Than Just Talk,” part of the series on Architecture for Global Learning. It was a wonderful opportunity to interact with foreign language and international educators from a wide variety of locations and institutions.
My presentation was on Multilingualism, Global Citizenship, and the Sustainable Development Goals: Implications for Foreign Language Education and Advocacy, in which I discussed the Many Languages One World Essay Contest and Global Youth Forum (MLOW) in terms of both the significance of multilingualism in global citizenship and its implications for foreign language educators and advocates.
While the MLOW essay contest winners, who are brought to the US to participate in a week-long global youth forum before presenting at the United Nations in the General Assembly Hall, have impressive foreign language skills, often in multiple languages, the event highlights the use of these skills as tool to work together in transnational teams to effectively address complex global issues.
Implications for foreign language and international educators are clear.
Too few US students study foreign languages, and those who do often fail to reach proficiency or fluency, experiencing the frustration of not having the foreign language skills needed to actually use their language(s) to work with others, to negotiate, to influence, and to persuade — in other words, to make a difference, and to make our world a better place.
Solutions are just as clear.
An earlier start to foreign language learning, especially in an immersive setting, and building on any existing heritage language skills, is essential, and a wonderful example is New York City’s révolution bilingue. In addition, effective foreign language education inspired by the goals of “translingual and transcultural” competence, as articulated in the MLA’s Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World, would provide the framework for both the foreign language skills and cultural knowledge needed in our multilingual world and workplace.
In addition to this event, I was also delighted at the opportunity to support NAFSA in its work.
Special thanks to Sarah and Mark for having invited me to participate as a presenter and for their support and guidance, and many thanks to Mario, my co-presenter, to the BlueSky staff, and to all those who attended the live event.
Languages do matter!