ChezWhat? is an old site. I have been writing here now for 12 years.
Most of what fills this space has been an exercise of writing as a personal endeavor. Gratitude, controversy, art or talking about things that have happened recently or long ago has been the realm of ChezWhat?
But I am going to pivot now. Because I have been in my career of teaching foreign language for about that long and in a number of different circumstances, most recently teaching teacher candidates about teaching Spanish, I have made observations.
This is Sir Ken Robinson. He is among my education heroes. Click here to go to his Ted Channel
I have observed that our United States seems to, in some places, regard other countries with fear or disinterest. I have observed that our United States, or maybe it’s the press, doesn’t seem interested in how our folly looks in a global perspective. I have observed that we live in mostly a very comfortable bubble, never having had a war on our soil. I have observed according to current foreign policy, Saudi Arabia isn’t a muslim country (am I the only one who notices the deference our country takes to Saudi Arabia?)
Oftentimes even maps put North America at the middle of the world, and don’t accurately display distortion of landmass. This rendering which attempts to more accurately convey the size of countries speaks to the enormity of Africa, for one, and subsequently the balance of power worldwide.
I have noticed that even though it takes no fewer than 5 to 7 years to attain fluency in a language other than english, it is most of the time taught only 4 years, as an unassessed elective. Our military struggles to communicate in the countries it interacts in (and it isn’t as though this interferences is a new endeavor- its been 30 or more years), and doctors try to communicate with people who speak something other than english. Legislation is made prioritizing institutions of higher education work on teaching Americans foreign language and still only seventeen percent of American adults speak a language in addition to English, and a good part of that number is immigrant population.
The response from a resume that has a variety of international experience is no match for college graduates struggle to distinguish themselves from their peers.
Administrators talk about 21st education initiatives, too often barely tweaking their 20th century traditions.
Sometimes it feels as though the US is willfully ignorant about the cognitive, political, social and intellectual value of learning languages other than english and the benefits of international perspective. Personally, it doesn’t seem excessive to suggest that the cognitive value of foreign language learning is on par with math, because it develops a whole section of the brain wired for communication. Research bears this out, bilinguals have lower rates of demetia and alzheimers disease. Yes, every single person can learn a foreign language. Maybe not the way that it is taught in school, as a highly academic elective, but research bears out that we have a part of the brain devoted to language learning, and in other countries citizens speak a number of different languages or dialects without the benefit of a higher IQ. Americans too can speak multiple languages.
It is wearying to teaching foreign language in the US. Seldom do students come to fluency, the training to teach Spanish as an academic elective is akin to spitting into the wind. A huge amount of time is wasted in 2 years of seat time to meet a college requirement. Who would want to spent their “one wild and precious life” flushing time in that way?
The answer is K-12 dual language immersion education. Dual language immersion is additive, it levels the playing field for students and it closes achievement gaps. Everyone wins. Students outperform peers educated in a monolingual setting and America goes to college ready to learn that third less common foreign language such as Farsi or Russian–and it is orders of magnitude easier because they have established the neural pathway and study habits required for language learning.
So ChezWhat is pivoting. If a person visits ChezWhat, they will receive all that I absorb about foreign language learning. It is an area I know about and am re-entering with the goals and hopes to publish, present and fund. Here we go!