Griffin and other educators are demonstrating how to reverse the decline of the US. They are making language interesting and relevant to students, while teaching them the fundamental skills of the 21st century: collaboration, communication, presentation and, yes, the command of a second (or third) language, which will mean that one day they will have to hire employees and give them a raise. In Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, more than 30 percent of K-12 students were enrolled in foreign languages. In Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon, it was less than 13 percent.
This lack of support at the K-12 level has led to a decrease in college enrollment and a decrease in levels of competence among US adults. However, employers are increasingly looking for workers who can speak another language. The federal government also designates some languages as representing “critical needs” for national security. These currently include Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Korean and Japanese.
While English remains the lingua franca of global trade and diplomacy, there is a growing consensus among business and political leaders, teachers, scientists and community members that proficiency in English is not sufficient to meet the country's needs in an increasingly shrinking world.
Making Language Learning InterestingEducators are making language learning interesting and relevant to students. Their students rely on “authentic sources” instead of textbooks. During evaluations they may need to have a real conversation that interprets and incorporates those sources.
It's not like when Griffin started teaching 16 years ago before using the Internet at home and packing his vacation bags full of German magazines. Students are also staying with languages for longer instead of the typical two or three years.
Barriers to EntryAlthough many of the students in North County don't go to four-year universities, many do go to two-year universities which don't require studying the language to be admitted; they like what they're learning. She and her colleagues teach all students “as if they were going to be competent one day” and we tell them “You just don't know how useful this can be for you”.
This will eliminate barriers to entry for students studying foreign languages at level A and will offer more equitable conditions of competition. Students don't have to study a foreign language to graduate from high school and the state still doesn't offer the bilingual illiteracy stamp.