As globalization increases, so does the volume of Americans doing business overseas. And, although it is true that a significant percentage of foreign nationals speak English, many do not. These statistics highlight the challenges for American businesses as the United States makes the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service- based economy. It should be obvious that selling services is more likely to be successful when those who are purchasing services feel understood by and understand the service provider.
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Despite evidence that multilingual societies enjoy advantages in international trade, [ 3 ] data show that over half of U. Beyond the global economy there are other compelling reasons— related to our national security and well-being— why languages are important for Americans. Our ability to promote peace around the world depends on efforts in diplomacy, arms control, international law enforcement, emergency preparedness, and health. Our security also improves as we make progress toward achieving humanitarian goals and p romoting prosperity and democracy around the world.
Such efforts tend to put service providers in touch with the very populations least likely to speak English as a native language or to have learned it in school. If we are to be effective in providing humanitarian services, thereby promoting peace and the common good, we must be able to communicate with those we wish to assist. National security also involves defense against terrorism, and in this arena, languages are critical: those who aim to harm the U. The most powerful intelligence-gathering tools in the world are of little use if, once collected, documents cannot be understood by those reading them or if conversations that are overheard are unintelligible to listeners.
These arguments are true and valid, but they miss an important point: students who have already gained significant skills in one foreign language have the ability to learn other languages more quickly than students who have never had foreign language training.
Therefore, if our schools were to produce graduates with viable skills in one foreign language, we could more readily crosstrain these students to meet unforeseen, acute needs for other languages as they arise. National security and business may be important, but not necessarily sufficient, reasons to learn languages from an early age. Regardless of future endeavors, every child can benefit immediately from starting to learn a language early and continuing through schooling. There is accumulating evidence that learning additional languages — particularly from an early age — has cognitive and academic benefits.
Mental flexibility, the ability to shift easily between symbol systems such as mathematics and literacy , improved abilities in divergent thinking, metalinguistic awareness, and, occasionally, higher scores on measures of verbal intelligence are correlated with early language learning. Everywhere in America, even in the most rural communities, there is a need for cross-cultural education. As a result of recent waves of immigration to the U. Cross-cultural understanding is clearly valuable to the social fabric of our schools and communities.
English Language Education Policy in Asia
Further, our students need to have the skills to interact across cultures in acceptable ways and, more important, the capacity to continue learning throughout life as they engage in novel cross-cultural encounters both domestically and abroad. Students can acquire the skills needed for lifelong successful crosscultural interactions in the foreign language classroom. Access to Foreign Language Learning There is good news and bad news about foreign language education in the U.
The good news is that research has identified the critical features of program design that make a difference in student learning, and the better news is that there are many programs in operation — many of them long-standing and well established — that embody those features. The bad news is that not enough students are able to study foreign languages at all. But the worst news is that opportunities for foreign language study frequently reflect the socioeconomic conditions of our communities. This is not to say that one-fourth of all students study languages, but rather that the option for some students exists in only one out of four elementary schools.
For heritage language students who come to school with proficiency in a home language other than English, there are relatively few opportunities to maintain and extend those skills while they are learning English. Indeed, it might appear that our schools seek to substitute English for the linguistic resources heritage learners bring to school, instead of building on or enriching those resources.
Best Practices Schools that offer foreign languages should ensure that their programs incorporate the features that research has shown to make a difference in language learning. Of these, the most self-evident is adequate time. Students cannot begin a language in high school, study it for two years, and be able to use it for real-life purposes any more than they can take two years of beginning mathematics and be prepared to be engineers. The average high school student gets approximately hours of language instruction per year.
And if experience has shown that a total of hours of instruction spread over two years has proved woefully inadequate for high school students to develop any usable level of proficiency, then it is not surprising that elementary school students who receive 30 to 60 minutes of instruction per week are not demonstrating bilingual fluency at the end of one, two, or even five years.
Students who receive 60 minutes weekly of language instruction in K-5 schools have accumulated fewer contact hours than high school students do in two years. As most educators know, time-on-task matters. But time is not the only important factor. Student engagement may be even more important.
Students need to carry out meaningful, motivating, purposeful tasks that allow them to use language as a tool for understanding others and for communicating their own ideas. One approach that is increasingly popular is content- based language learning. In this system, subject matter drawn from the school curriculum may be delivered through the medium of the foreign language, reinforced through the language, or practiced in the language.
For example, in immersion programs, half or more of the school uses the target language as the medium of instruction.
In total immersion, students even learn to read in the target language first and in English second. Interestingly enough, data on the performance of immersion students indicates that they equal or surpass their peers on standardized tests, even when they have learned subjects like mathematics entirely in another language. In another content-based approach, foreign language teachers or classroom teachers use the foreign language instead of English to teach one or two subjects.
Some schools have offered art, music, or physical education in the foreign language; in others, all science is taught only in the foreign language. These programs have found ways to increase student contact time with the foreign language while only minimally decreasing the amount of time allocated for other subjects in the curriculum.
Foreign language teachers may also use subject matter as a vehicle for practicing language skills. For example, students can practice the past tense of verbs by creating timelines of significant events studied in a social studies course.
English Language Education Policy in Asia : Robert Kirkpatrick :
To practice clothing vocabulary, students may calculate the percentage of students in class wearing white, blue, or black shirts. This approach to content-based instruction can be especially valuable in middle schools where interdisciplinary team-teaching is favored. The content-based approach incorporates several important features. As noted above, the first is time.
Exploring the value of ELT as a secondary school subject in China: a multi-goal model for the English curriculum. The book 'Conditions for English Language Teaching and Learning in Asia' was recently published for the commemoration of prof. Bernard Spolsky. It consists of the featured presentations in the conference in Manila.
Spolsky, B. Routledge critical studies in Asian education. The authors are scholars and educational leaders that national associations in Asia nominated to report on a topic of primary school English-language education policies in their respective countries and regions. The coverage is wide: China rapidly becoming the leader in the number of students learning English , Japan working to make the transition from primary to secondary school smooth and seamless , Singapore which has for many years followed a policy of using English as a medium of instruction , Korea giving a growing role to English while preserving its mother tongue , India building on a tradition of colonial English teaching to establish English as an economic resource , Vietnam fitting English into a major program of national rebuilding , and Taiwan successfully implementing English educational policies from Taipei City to other parts of the nation.
Language assessment has become one of the most important issues in modern education. This volume provides a wealth of important information on the development and practice of English assessment in six countries: China, Japan, Korea, Israel, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The comprehensive reviews in each chapter show that these Asian countries tend to have centralized high-stakes testing, which demonstrates the dangers and limitations of this approach. The authors claim that tests need to be used with care and that we should avoid excessive reliance on imperfect assessment instruments.
This volume will help non-Asian as well as Asian ELT professionals understand and learn more about language assessment and its current trends in Asia. A View from Israel. This volume provides a wealth of information on pre-service and in-service English language teacher education in Asian nations. It presents a review of, or discussion on the policy of, English language teacher education in eight nations: Indonesia, China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Each chapter focuses on main issues or policy changes in English language teacher education in that country.