Friday, December 08, 2006

Something serious and something funny

Hey, I'm a Gemini with a split personality and a dual bilingual soul on top of it, so why not put two completely unrelated posts together?

First, here's the start of an abstract that I'm submitting with a friend for a conference called "Beyond Borders: Global Change and Education in Action", presented by the NYU School of Education International Education Program. (Doesn't that sound a bit like the Department of Redundancy Department? But anyway, I digress ....)

My friend Liz just sent me the start of her thesis on multiculturalism in foreign language education, and I realized that it had a very common thread with my article in Language Magazine (June 2006) calling on foreign language teachers to take a stand in promoting the celebration and validation of other languages and cultures in this country (and to help stem the xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-anylanguageotherthanEnglish tide of sentiment that was permeating the immigration debate). So we decided to put our heads together and make a presentation at this conference. Here's what we've come up with so far ...

ABSTRACT: Foreign language educators can take the lead in promoting multiculturalism if we take “foreign” our of our mindset and our vocabulary, and instead work to connect our classrooms to other languages and cultures in our own communities. Language teachers are a unique and underutilized resource in multicultural education, and we can and should be a much stronger force.

One might think that language teachers are at the forefront of international and multicultural education in the United States. After all, we are the ambassadors of language and culture in our schools – and indeed, we do teach the language and culture of many other countries. But what are we doing to promote other languages and cultures in this country, and to open our students’ minds to the multicultural society in which they live?

As language teachers, we can and should do much more to promote international education and multiculturalism at a much deeper level for our children and our society. It can begin with a simple paradigm shift: we need to stop thinking of languages other than English and cultures other than the dominant one as “foreign.” We are a nation of immigrants representing almost every language and culture in the world. We need to bring these local, not foreign, resources into our language classrooms. By doing so, we give students a local and immediately relevant connection to “foreign” languages and cultures, while at the same time opening them to multiculturalism in their own communities and in society at large.

We will present two ways in which language teachers can promote multiculturalism and make language learning more personally relevant to students in the world language classroom. First, we will discuss using fables and legends to teach multiculturalism. Second, we will demonstrate ways in which language teachers can bring local multilingual and multicultural community resources into the language classroom and make real-life connections to language and culture for students.

Let's move away from teaching languages as something that is "foreign" and towards a multiculturalist approach that will help create more locally active and globally aware young citizens.

And on a completely different note ...

Here is my nomination for funniest video of the week (and possibly of the year), by the outrageously fun Venezuelan group, Los Amigos Invisibles. (Note: do not watch this if you understand Spanish and get easily offended. If you get easily offended but don't understand Spanish, go ahead and watch it, though ... it's a hilarious throwback to the 70s, the tune is fun and sounds sweet, and you will think it's very cute.)

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