Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Opening the Language Learning Floodgates

How many languages is our school able to support and offer? 
This is a question that language learning departments in schools are constantly forced to ask of themselves, especially as the popularity of certain languages takes hold. This is happening right now as Mandarin language learning is becoming more widespread and it happened back in the 80s and 90s with the popularity of Russian and Japanese. As our schools offer these new languages, enrollment in other languages like French often times suffers. I recall several years ago having a conversation with a french teacher friend of mine who was feeling the pressure of lower enrollment due to a new language offering in our school-she felt a real threat to her job security. What if instead of the traditional 3-5 language offerings in a school, we instead offered a menu of 15, 20, or 25 languages? What if in addition to offering Spanish, Latin, and Mandarin, we also offered Korean, Vietnamese, German, Portuguese, Finnish, Arabic, Italian, Hebrew, and yes, French?

What if that French teacher who was suffering from low enrollment re-invented himself as a language learning facilitator and onsite coordinator of a broad and deep menu of online language learning opportunities for our youth? Does this sound feasible? Not sure if it is feasible, but it sure does sound exciting!

1 comment:

  1. I'm in the field of educational technology and IT, not a languages teacher. The languages teachers are concerned about a general decline in enrollments in languages as a whole. Over past 10 years we have also had declining enrollments in IT as a subject and one of the strategies I have used to deal with this is to offer choice, through a subject we call Negotiated Computing, in a similiar way that you have described for languages. I've been thinking along the same lines as you for languages based on my personal experience with IT. The use of ICT would, IMO be an essential tool for making this happen. I am most interested to hear from languages teachers about this idea as well.