Volume 4(1), 2008
Responses to the Modern Language Association’s Report
Framing the Issue: The Modern Language Association’s Report and the Future of Foreign Language Education
Wooten, J. & Varga K. D.
Transformative World Language Learning: An Approach for Environmental and Cultural Sustainability and Economic and Political Security
In this article, the author responds to the Modern Language Association’s report by arguing for an explicit and interdisciplinary transformative world language learning approach toward environmental and cultural sustainability and economic and political security. Specifically, transformative world language learning incorporates a new cosmology, ecological selfhood, understanding of quality of life issues, and spirituality as key curricular content objectives to foster transformed attitudes and actions from those currently developed by a national language “policy” promulgated by militarism, monetarism, and materialism. The author also offers recommendations for higher education to take a leadership role in effecting a transformative world language learning approach. Read the full article
This article offers a critique of the lack of attention to the place of online course offerings in foreign language departments and/or distance education in general by the MLA’s 2007 report on foreign language departments and their role in the academy. The article responds to how currently accessible technology (course management system platforms like WebCT/Blackboard™), already in wide use by universities and colleges across the United States, has made great strides towards replicating a classroom environment that can promote language proficiency as well as achieve the committee’s suggestions for encouraging more cross-cultural awareness in foreign language classrooms at all levels. Read the full article
Convergences and Transdisciplinarity in the Foreign Language Department: A Response to the MLA Report
This paper takes a specific university Department of Romance Languages as a case study to examine how the measures it adopted in view of increasing enrollment in Spanish in the nineties coincide with the recommendations in the MLA’s 2007 report; it also examines how they have fared after some 12 years of implementation, advances explanations for their success or failure, and offers suggestions for improvement. While examining well-established language programs, it discusses issues of governance, faculty and curriculum pertaining to the overall field of foreign languages and cultures. The initiatives proposed here aim at placing language study in a field of interacting factors to better adjust to the “inter-” and “trans-disciplinarity” of today’s world. Read the full article
The MLA’s recent recommendations for the future of foreign language programs include what some are calling a “revolutionary” overhaul to the traditional language/literature sequencing and an emphasis on “transcultural competence” at all levels of study. This essay examines both the theoretical and practical reasons why language programs at small liberal arts colleges are poised to lead efforts toward such change. It highlights conversations and plans that are currently taking place at one such institution, offering practical suggestions based on experiences there. Read the full article
In this paper, the author explores the views of a group whose perspectives have not often been included in discussions of new directions for foreign language education – students. Drawing from a larger ethnographic, discourse-analytic study of the nature of culture learning for one group of college students and their teacher, this paper presents data from interviews with students about their broad orientations to the role of culture in foreign language education as well as their more specific views of the culture learning process in the French class they were taking at the time. The approach used in the class, global simulation, engaged students in several culture learning processes, including being exposed to multiple perspectives, being able to try on those points of view, and engaging in self-reflection. The results of this study outline what today’s college students expect and desire in terms of the cultural dimensions of their foreign language education. Additionally, the results suggest one approach that can successfully engage students in the kind of learning about culture that the Modern Language Association’s report advocates. Read the full article
Voices from the Field
As a sixth year student of Spanish looking back on her foreign language education, the author believes she has a greater understanding of what attracted her to and maintained her interest in the language. Yet she also recognizes areas in her education that could have benefited from change, including flexibility in creating her own program of study and more integration of language and culture in her courses. Such changes, she believes, would encourage more students to continue pursuing their foreign language education even after meeting their minimum requirements. Read the full article
This article is a high school Spanish teacher’s perspective on the current state of foreign language education in Georgia. In particular, the author considers the need for more connections in foreign language education, including explicit links between students’ experiences and the relevance of language study, more integration of the fluidity of language and culture, and further dialogue between K-12 practitioners and university faculty. Read the full article
The way in which foreign languages, including the Classics, are taught is evolving. In this piece, the author reflects upon her own teaching methods as they relate to the goal of creating competent language students who are able to communicate translingually and transculturally. As a first year Latin teacher, the goal to educate students so that they achieve this level of competency seems daunting. This narrative contains authentic classroom experiences recorded by the author which are used to examine her goals and methods and their effectiveness for communication within and outside of the classroom. Read the full article
Book Review 1
Barnes, J. (2008)
Author reviews Smith & Osborn’s (Eds.) Spirituality, social justice, and language learning.
Book Review 2
Goldoni, F. (2008)
Author reviews Dufon & Churchill’s (Eds.) Language learners in study abroad contexts.
Book Review 3
Kohl, A.G. (2008)
Author reviews Falsgraf’s (Ed.) Foreign language units for all proficiency levels.