"Foreign Languages at the Core of Success: An Advocacy User's Guide"
TennesseeBob Peckham bobp@utm.edu

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
    Identify and connect with potential allies
    Gather appropriate 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 irreparably poisoned

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 schools. 

The Good News (information in Advocacy Kit)

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 your fingertips:

    Foreign Languages: An Essential Core Experience

    What does research show about the benefits of language learning?

    MLA Foreign Language brochure

    Foreign Language Education For ALL Students (NCSSFL position paper)

    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 Review 27,
    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 Practical Use

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 them

    Try Life in Another Language

    Celebrity linguists

    Celebrity Corner ACTFL


Few may come into the fold this way, but there must be converts in every group, and you need to identify them. 


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 United States.

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).


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 Opportunities" (2004).

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 Education (2005)

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 in Vermont.

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 graduation requirement.

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 languages.

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 Québec

•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


    “Nos ancêtres les Gaulois”: Ethnicity and History in Vermont


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 Tennessee:

    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 01, 1998

    Trade Makes Vermont Strong
    http:// www.csgeast.org/pdfs/etc/VTTradeReport06.pdf

    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 friends

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:

    Vermont vacation

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, Winooski, VT

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?

Burlington            Arad, Southern, Israel     
Burlington            Bethlehem, Palestine Authority     
Burlington          Puerto Cabezas, Atlantico Norte, Nicaragua     
Burlington          Yaroslavl, Yaroslavskaya, Russia     
Randolph            Myrhorod, Poltavs'ka (Poltava), Ukraine

Many of the connections you can make may have to be language or culture specific

Franco-American Heritage events in HardwickSt. 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 your program?

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, staffing, guidance and parental attention.