Speaking of Languages

Creating a dynamic world-language learning experience.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lisa A. Frumkes

CREDIT Rosetta StoneAs the need for bilingualism and trilingualism among job applicants becomes more prevalent in our increasingly global marketplace, there are many positions requiring proficiency in languages such as Arabic, Japanese, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese going unfilled. It is imperative that world language instruction adapt to meet both the intellectual and emotional needs, as well as the learning preferences, of today’s students.

From the earliest age, students thrive on learning that is engaging, challenging and dynamic. Twenty-first century students learn distinctly differently from previous generations. They have been digitally literate since early childhood; they learn through doing; they are instantaneously connected with people around the world through technology; and mobile technology ensures learning is more accessible than ever before.

Currently, less than one percent of American adults are proficient in a foreign language that they studied in a U.S. classroom; and only seven percent of college students in America are enrolled in a language course.

Technology can play a significant role in how we help world language students develop the skills they need to be successful in today’s competitive workplace. Unlike traditional classroom instruction, blended learning programs combine the benefits of teacher led instruction with delivery of engaging content and instruction via digital and online media. For world language learning, this typically means setting up class stations using desktop PCs, laptops, tablets or even mobile phones. In addition to teacher-led classroom instruction, students spend a designated amount of time per week at these stations, as well as have access to online language learning solutions, apps, websites and audio/video programs through their wireless devices anytime and anywhere.

By incorporating online learning solutions into their curriculum, teachers are able to inform classroom instruction and infuse their classroom lessons with compelling content that students can then put into action. While students are working online, teachers are able to monitor their screens in real time, helping them identify where students are struggling and allowing them to provide immediate, personalized help.

The meaningful integration of technology in the world language classroom provides many benefits. It engages and motivates students to learn, helps them relate what has been taught to life outside the classroom, and also gives them opportunities to use their language abilities for interactional, real purpose. With the help of speech recognition software, students can practice their pronunciation and receive real time feedback without feeling awkward while speaking in front of their peers. Perhaps most important is that technology is adaptive and enables teachers to reach students of all abilities and provide the differentiated instruction and individualized attention each student deserves to develop language at his/her own pace.

These are just some of the reasons I love what we do at my company. Through the power of technology, we’re able to empower teachers around the world with language learning programs and to help students begin to think and speak in their new language from the very beginning. Online language learning solutions provide lessons to accommodate all learners, from those requiring additional support to students ready for increased challenges. Students are more engaged due to the constant interaction with the online component of the programs, while also benefitting from the in-person guidance and instruction from their teacher.

Additionally, technology is a rich resource for authentic language experiences and can expose students to the music, food, literature and culture of the language they are studying.

At the post-secondary level, the integration of technology in world language learning is occurring more frequently as more universities are requiring a foreign language graduation requirement. Among the schools experimenting with online language learning models are James Madison University in Virginia, which became the first college to partner with our company; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which moved all of its Spanish 101 instruction online three years ago; and Oregon State University, which recently launched an online bachelor’s degree in German.

Despite the advances being made and the importance of world language proficiency in career advancement, funding for world language learning instruction continues to be cut from local, regional and national budgets. Ironically, the “holy grail” of education is employability and, according to Salary.com, speaking a second language can increase lifetime earnings up to 20 percent.

Currently, less than one percent of American adults are proficient in a foreign language that they studied in a U.S. classroom; and only seven percent of college students in America are enrolled in a language course. Perhaps if we make world language learning more dynamic and engaging through blended learning programs, those numbers will begin to rise and we will begin to positively impact the vicious cycle of monolingualism we struggle with in the US.

Lisa A. Frumkes, Ph.D., is Senior Director of Language Learning for Rosetta Stone. Lisa leads an international team of experts in language, content creation, testing, and research. She studied about a dozen languages, and dabbled in a few more. She is most fluent at French, German, and Russian and loved studying Czech and Indonesian. Lately, she has been working on Mandarin, which is easily her biggest challenge to date.

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One Response to Speaking of Languages

  1. Angelo Gagliano, MD. says:

    Thank you, Lisa. I studied French with your parents in Lausanne, Switzerland, years ago. Now, i am attempting some Russian and Mandarin from YouTube videos. Arabic is next. Salaam.

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