Beyond “Preaching to the Choir”

Diverse stakeholders join forces to support language learning

Speaking out about the value of learning   languages   comes naturally to World Language teachers. We have experienced the joy of connecting with other individuals and cultures through language and are eager to share that joy with others. However, our advocacy efforts can feel lonely and frustrating when our passion for the value of language learning is not reflected in the policies of our local, state, or national educational leadership or economic issues and priorities. But there is GOOD NEWS about taking our message beyond the choir to which we are often preaching! Two ground-breaking initiatives, one at the state level and one at the national level, join together a broad range of stakeholders in a call for action to improve the status of language teaching and learning in our state and country.

AT THE STATE LEVEL: Wisconsin Language Roadmap Initiative: Background: Last January Wisconsin leaders from business and industry, non-profit organizations, K-16 education, state and local government, and Wisconsin communities met in a working group to address the following objectives:

  • Exchange perspectives on the value of languages in national and Wisconsin contexts, focusing on how language skills contribute to the state’s economy and how language education contributes to future workforce development.
  • Review the “language landscape” in Wisconsin in terms of current and future multilingual workforce needs, K-16 educational capacities (and major issues and constraints), and community resources, as reported in the pre-Summit assessment.
  • Collect stakeholder input on priorities, recommendations, and future directions of language education in Wisconsin for college, career, and community readiness for all students.
  • Identify next steps to advance the goals of this project, provide opportunities for additional stakeholder engagement and incorporate recommendations for the Wisconsin Language Roadmap.

Action Update: As a follow-up to the Summit, four working groups of Wisconsin leaders from the different sectors worked to address the following focus areas:

  • Sustainable language program development, access, and accountability
  • Student success and equity
  • Language educator recruitment, preparation, retention, and effectiveness and
  • Collaborative leadership, engagement, and advocacy for language education.

The resulting draft of recommendations for the Wisconsin Language Roadmap has been shared for public review and comments. The next step is the final strategic planning document that will identify action steps to address Wisconsin’s workforce and community language needs. The final Wisconsin Language Roadmap will be released in Fall 2018.

At the WAFLT Annual Conference in November, a Friday morning workshop will focus on Wisconsin Language Roadmap recommendations and how they can be leveraged for strategic planning for local pathways to proficiency, followed by sessions that focus on each of the four focus areas listed above.

AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL : Bridging America’s Language Gap: A Call to Action
Following the 2017 Publication asks public and private stakeholders to join together to show their support. See the report to see the extensive list of signatories which is growing and being updated regularly. (Note: WAFLT has added its support to this document.)
Excerpt from the report: We have a responsibility to ourselves and to future generations—as parents, educators, policy-makers, and leaders in business and government—to support language learning in the United States to achieve the following results:

  • Provide Access to Languages for all Age Groups and every level of the education continuum, from early childhood through retirement;
  • Prepare More Language Teachers, without whom we cannot advance language education;
  • Promote Public-Private Partnerships in language education to amplify the work begun in our schools;
  • Support Heritage and Indigenous Language communities in their traditions and birthrights, and as an important and distinctive national resource; and
  • Encourage International Learning Experiences for students, teachers, and workers through educational and professional programs, as a critical aspect of advanced language learning.

We, the signatories, attest that the public and private sectors require greater capacity in languages in addition to English, and we urge greater support for languages in order to maintain and enhance American global leadership. We stand ready to do our part.

AT THE LOCAL LEVEL: Let’s take some time this summer to become familiar with the resources provided in these state and national initiatives and to consider how we might reach out to voices “beyond the choir” in our own communities who have a vested interest in the value of learning other languages and connecting to other cultures. Share these documents with building and district administrators, school board members, and local businesses or groups who have intercultural or international ties. The models of the diverse interest groups coming together at the state and national level to address these pressing needs may be the beginning of local conversations that add voices to your choir in support for languages.

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