Languages at the Core of Success: An Advocacy User's Guide"
TennesseeBob Peckham email@example.com
All Vermont Foreign Language teachers need to become foreign
language advocates. My Advocacy Kit
essay was made for French and will be published by the AATF, but it
is applicable for other languages. It lays the foundation of
advocacy in 3 parts:
Become a language
& culture Program
not just what you call it,
but the way it is known & recognized
connect with potential allies
info supporting your raison d'être
You should consider the basics of this document as I address you.
When Myth-Taken = Mistaken
Christine Brown, Assistant Superintendent of Glastonbury Public Schools
(CT) indicated that the later stages of the "Americanization"
movement and our wartime willingness to stir up antipathy toward
our enemies were major contributors in weakening the place foreign
languages may have held in the early core of American public education.
At the end of WWI, the Governor of Iowa simply banned the speaking of
foreign languages in public places. Nebraska banned instruction in any
language except English. Of course our shameless permissiveness in the
matter of anti-ethnic
racism has played its part. But there are many other layers in our
misguided and manufactured case against learning a foreign
language. One of them is the myth that only people with high
academic talent can learn a foreign language or that if you did not
learn it as a child, you won't, another that living in the US insulates
us from the necessity of speaking a foreign language, another that
bilingual people can never attain the highest skill level in either
language, another that all important international business is done in
English and still another that machine translation is already doing it
for us. Taking in these myths is almost as damaging as our seemingly
endless prejudices. Unfortunately, you don't have to go far to run into
people whose attitudes have been needlessly and in some cases
Add to this the reality that near universal budget devastation in the
wake of our current recession and credit crisis has or will take its
toll on any educational endeavor not vitally close to the core in many
The Good News (information in
Real evidence of the benefits of foreign-language study is plentiful,
convincing and accessible. FL study effects brain development,
mental health, success in other subjects, memory, general intelligence,
cognitive abilities, mental flexibility, cultural understanding,
meta-linguistic awareness, knowledge of your own language. I have
collected some links and very recent citations which will put all of
these general arguments at
Foreign Languages: An Essential Core Experience
What does research show about the benefits of
MLA Foreign Language brochure
Foreign Language Education For ALL Students (NCSSFL
Cooper, Thomas, et al. "Foreign Language
Learning and SAT Verbal Scores Revisited." Foreign Language Annals
41, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 00-217.
Pope, Devin G. 'Benefits of bilingualism: Evidence
from Mormon missionaries." Economics of Education
no. 2 (April 2008): 234-242.
On the direct benefit practical side, FL study is an entrance
requirement for many serious 4-year colleges, and it is more and more
frequently a job requirement.
Foreign Language Requirement for College Admissions
Putting Your Foreign Language and Culture Skills to
Another bit of good news is that "foreign languages" are officially
part of the NCLB academic core. However, Foreign language study was
also in the national education Goals 2000, which states: "By the year
2000 all American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having
demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including
English, mathematics, science, foreign language, civics and government,
arts, history, and geography..." . 1979 "President's Commission on
Foreign Language and International Studies" also recommended Foreign
language requirements for all colleges and universities. The College
Board (1983) recommended expanding basic skills to include foreign
language education for all students. In 1996, the American Association
of School Administrators identified knowledge of foreign languages as
one of the most important skills that K-12 students will need to
develop to prosper in the 21st century.
In spite of all of this, I challenge you to ask someone on the street
or in a school or school administrative office about the core status of
foreign languages. You will rarely find them outside of the "elective"
category. Are we really asleep t the wheel? It would be nice if
foreign language study were tied to literacy, and I know that a case
can be made for this, but it is complex, ill suited for sound
bites, and hard to work into a LEA report. Foreign Languages have
difficulty holding a place among literacies, mainly because they are
stake holders in many literacies and cannot be held simply within or
tied to one definition, be it general or specialized.
WE NEED SOMETHING ELSE (Allies), something that stands outside of logic
and that passionately countermands the prejudices we have seen - We
need to locate people with a real conviction
of the heart about the study of other languages. People who enjoy food
from the countries of speakers of different languages around the world,
have had their attention captured by great music great films great
books, been impressed with the culture of foreign countries, have had a
memorable and positive travel experience, see someone save a life using
a FL, or see highly recognizable people speak some of these languages.
Students, parents, colleagues, administrators, counselors, school board
members, PTA members If we can't find them, we need to woo them, create
Try Life in Another Language
Celebrity Corner ACTFL
THE LANGUAGE OF THE STARS
Few may come into the fold this way, but there must be converts in
every group, and you need to identify them.
VERMONT FOREIGN LANGUAGE PROFILE:
Vermont is as far from being a bilingual state as it is from being
bicultural. 63 languages other than English are spoken in Vermont, 6 of
them with over 1000 speakers. With 35 languages other than
English spoken in Chittenden County alone, there are only 251
counties in the entire US more cosmopolitan. Vermont has many residents
speaking even the least taught of the "critical languages"
It has the highest percentage of speakers of Serbocroatian in the
second in the percentage of Tibetan and Welsh speakers,
third in the percentage of Mongolian speakers
Burlington is a popular location for refugee resettlement. 90 percent
of the district's 500 English-language learners are refugees.
French is important. Aside from its 14,700 French speakers, Vermont
has nearly 10% of all that towns in the US where over a quarter
of the residents claim French heritage, and a bigger portion all that
towns in the US where over 10% of residents claim French-Canadian
heritage (53,835 residents reporting French Canadian ancestry in 2000).
AATF FRENCH ADVOCACY FACT PACK FOR VERMONT
These are not just proof of Vermont's multicultural environment, they
are also a potential pool of allies.
Political status of foreign language education, there is a 2-year
foreign-language study requirement for Vermont's College Prep diploma.
Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities (1996) and "Grade
Expectations for Vermont’s Framework of Standards and Learning
Vermont has had some success in early childhood education. And the VFLA
conducted an interesting survey of early language programs (2005),
showing some unexpected strengths in Vermont.
Lt. Governor Dubie Called for Greater Commitment to International
If I am not mistaken, in 2006 the State Board of Education approved an
ambitions goal for an
early start to FL study and a plan for coordinating study through
high-school, but the initiative seems to have lost strength.
Governor Douglas proclaimed March 19-25, 2007, as Foreign Language Week
Vermont needs to join Delaware, Hawaii,
Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia,
Wyoming, Michigan, Louisiana Tennessee, Rhode Island, Maryland,
Mississippi, Arkansas, Massachusetts, where FL is or will be core and a
On the post-secondary level Vermont is a real study in contrasts. There
are programs like those at Middlebury, with 10 graduate language
schools (their famous immersion atmosphere), extensive undergraduate
program of nearly a dozen different languages study with 6 college
language majors. There is the School for International Training in
Brattleboro, which manages undergraduate programs through study in
nearly 50 countries worldwide. 55 less-common languages taught in its
World Learning programs. It has a graduate institute with graduate
degrees and professional programs. Bennington College adds to its
undergraduate programs in Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and
Spanish, a Master of Arts in Teaching a Second Language (with summer
immersion study and online study for French and Spanish teachers). The
University of Vermont teaches 9 Foreign Languages, with strong support
from no less than 7 area studies programs and graduate programs in 3
St. Michael's College, major in French & Spanish, minor French,
Spanish & Italian
Castelton State College has a major in Spanish
•Johnston State College has a minor in French and an affiliation with
the Cégep regional de Lanaudière à Terrebonne in
•Norwitch U - Minor in Chinese, French, German, or Spanish
•Marlboro College Cooperes with SIT in Brattleboro VT but does not seem
to have formal language majors
•Champlain College has programs abroad and houses VT world trade
center, but no language majors.
Feast or Famine. Remember much of the participation in Middlebury, SIT,
Bennington and even UoV programs is out-of-state residents. I do not
anticipate much beyond what I have found, you can set me straight.
How about admissions and degree requirements in Vermont colleges and
universities? Someone needs to investigate these, especially in
the institutions where you find the largest number of Vermont residents.
Do Vermont's colleges make a comprehensible statement about how
Vermonters should value FL study?
Foreign Languages in Vermont Resources:
Vermont - Languages
Vermont: Most Common Languages Spoken
VERMONT'S FRAMEWORK OF STANDARDS & LEARNING
“Nos ancêtres les Gaulois”: Ethnicity and
History in Vermont
GETTING LOCAL (INFO & ALLIES)
We have seen that universal and national arguments for the benefits and
practicality of foreign language are plentiful. See what ACTFL
(www.actfl.org) and JNCL-NICLS (www.languagepolicy.org) present.
In many cases, local and state policy makers and power brokers are not
moved much by general or universal benefits of Foreign Language study,
but are interested in what is good for the community or state. I see
that Senator Patrick Leahy introduced " The State Foreign Investment
Improvement Act" on the senate floor March, 12 of this year. Foreign
Investment in Vermont should be important, since foreign-owned
companies employ around 9,800 Vermonters, who make on the average 32%
higher than average Vermont salaries. However the numbers
employed are down from the 2005 and 2006 figures. In exports I see some
disturbing news tied to the fact that 27.3 % of all manufacturing
workers in Vermont depend on exports for their jobs, the fifth highest
figure among the 50 states. According to the U.S. Department of
Commerce, in 2005 Vermont ranked 33rd in the United States with total
exports valued at $4.2 billion. In that same year, 18.4% of Vermont's
GDP was from exports. For some reason, Vermont's overall export
revenues for 2007 are down by 26.4% from their 2005 highs. By 2007
Vermont's ranking for total export value had slipped to 42nd. In the
rest of the New England states, export figures had risen during this
period, even in the two states where the overall figure was smaller
than that of Vermont. This was a period where the plummeting
value of the US dollar should have favored Vermont exports, but the
state's export industries were unable to capitalize on this. With
the value of the dollar currently on the rise, it is obvious that
Vermont needs to do something different to recapture international
markets. Why not an international focus in Vermont education,
including real core status of foreign language study to insure
Vermont's future in international business with the right skills?
If the state politicians are in a rut, get the Chamber of Commerce to
invite in the State Scholars Initiative.
State Scholars Initiative
You can also do much to help. Here is a simple step we have taken in
Why study a foreign language in Tennessee?
It has been helpful in putting our point across for foreign language
requirements (stages in TN: academic diploma, req. in many colleges,
req. for college entrance, one diploma) , and there is no reason why it
cannot be repeated in Vermont.
State Exports for VERMONT
Vermont Global Trade Partnership
Importing jobs Vermont Business Magazine, Jan
Trade Makes Vermont Strong
Vermont: Exports, Jobs, and Foreign Investment
Vermont-Canada State Trade Fact Sheet (2008)
Quebec-Vermont Trade Corridors
Making allies where "local" concerts
count. Look carefully at the business
community (exporters, importers, plants assembling foreign-made parts
or sending out of country parts to be assembled, foreign-owned,
cooperation with foreign industries, tourism) Statewise, here is
an important platform element of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce: "
promotion of the Quebec-Vermont Trade Corridor to expand partnerships
between Vermont and Quebec" (http://www.vtchamber.com/lobbying/312.html)
90.3 mile land border boarder, not counting the shoreline of Lake
Champlain. Primary crossings are on I-89 and I-91. To give some
numerical importance to this concept, in 2002, Vermont exported over
$840 million in product to Quebec representing 80% of all Vermont trade
with Canada. Vermont is Quebec’s fifth largest trading partner as
nearly $2 billion in product was shipped south across the border into
the state in 2002.
Someone needs to join and attend meetings of business-oriented
organizations (Chambers of Commerce, Rotary International 20 VT
chapters) You may have to eat a meal away from your usual circle of
The 2007 France-Vermont cooperative tourism agreement in anticipation
of 2009, the 400th anniversary
of Samuel de Champlain's discovery of Lake Champlain first between
France and a U.S. state. Don't forget that in 2007, Canadians made more
than 642,400 visits to Vermont, spending $115 million.
Appropriately, there is a French version of the Office of Tourism site:
Look at the political community: local politicians who have traveled,
who have recent foreign roots and ties to heritage, who want their
business community to export or attract foreign investment.
The Vermont Legislature - Legislative Directory
How about heritage and historical societies?
Vermont Historical Society
Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society
Annual meeting, tomorrow, October 25, 2008, BioTek Offices, Tigan St,
And why not the
Vermont Humanities Council (look for Franco-Americn
or another ethnic theme)
Why not explore a connection and alliance through Vermont's
participation in Sister Cities International?
Arad, Southern, Israel
Bethlehem, Palestine Authority
Puerto Cabezas, Atlantico Norte,
Yaroslavl, Yaroslavskaya, Russia
Myrhorod, Poltavs'ka (Poltava), Ukraine
Many of the connections you can make may have to be language or culture
Franco-American Heritage events in Hardwick,
St. Albans and Vergennes.
There are other Franco-American Heritage Festivals in New England.
Some of your best connections may be colleagues from other disciplines.
The Basketball coach with who you have shared info. about Tony Parker
(NBA Spurs) or Joachim Noah (NBA Bulls), The History teacher whom you
have invited to your class to speak about Napoleon.
How well does your school's counseling staff know you? How about having
a coffee with one of the people who may have some influence over
student choice of courses
Do you know what the PTA or the county school board is doing? When is
their next meeting and what are they discussing? Have you been to
a meeting lately? When was the last time they discussed an aspect of
Finding a place for Foreign Languages at the core of Vermont's, your
supervisory union, your school's public
education and as a requirement for entence to Vermont's public
four-year colleges and univesities should be job one for Vermont's
foreign -lnguage advocates. It belongs in the same phrase and should be
mentioned in the same breath with English, Math, Science, Social
Studies, etc. Without real core status, any subject
becomes an "elective" by default, losing rank and respect in budget,
guidance and parental attention.