Sunday, July 31, 2011

News: Bloomington In. School Brings Lessons to Life

Bloomington Indiana schools using the "English Alive" program aimed to engage young students who are not native English speakers in language learning by using field trips and other 'multisensory' activities. This is a three week summer program for students in grades K-3 to learn a variety of lessons. For the full article click the link below:

English Alive Program

News: Summer Chinese Immersion Program for MD Students

Chris here again with more language news. More from Maryland this time where a summer immersion program is helping young students learn Chinese. For the full article, check here:

Chinese Immersion Program in MD

German: Baltic Coast Video (Deutsche Welle)

Hello all, Chris here with a nice video a found which details Germany's Baltic Coast. The video is from Deutsche Welle. Enjoy!

Friday, July 29, 2011

News: Former Leaders Discuss Dangers of Cutting Language Programs

In a recent article of USA Today former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Senator Chuck Hagel discuss several issues and problems which the current trend of budget and program cuts for foreign language poses to the United States.

The full article can  be found here:

Former Leaders Discuss Language Program Cuts

News: ELL Teacher uses Blogger to Motivate Students

Having trouble stimulating student productivity? Take a look at how a fourth grade teacher is using to help get his students writing and more involved in their language study.

Using Blogger with ELL Students

News: Connecticut Online Chinese Program

The Chinese Language School Connecticut has introduced iVuChinese, an online system which allows students to learn at home. The program uses a curriculum designed by Better Chinese and makes extensive use of Skype to allow for interactivity with teachers and fellow students as opposed to rote memorization. The full article can be found here:

Connecticut Online Chinese Program

Thursday, July 28, 2011

News: To scrap or not to Scrap "biased" Chinese program

More language news today. This time some news from Australia. A Chinese government funded program in New South Wales (NSW) is being introduced this month. However, the program has already caused political controversy and there are already calls for its removal. Reasons for this are that controversial topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre will apparently not be discussed in the program. For the full article check here:

Controversial Chinese Program in Australia

The article does bring up an interesting point applicable for all types of language programs: How do you hand controversial or sensitive topics?

We'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the article or the above question!

News: Parents Taking Language Immersion to the Next Step

Chris here again with more language news. A recent article discusses a rising trend of parents taking language immersion to a new level. The article reports on parents who have gone as far as moving to Asia and enrolling their children in bilingual schools.

The full article can be found here:

Next Step in Language Immersion

Have you participated in language immersion?

Would you consider moving to another country in order to provide your children with immersion experience?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Update - Accessibility Issues

Hello all, Chris here. We have had some technical issues the past week which didn't allow you to view the site unless you signed in with a Google account. Somehow one of the privacy settings was turned on which prevented anyone from viewing the site. The issue has now been fixed! We apologize for the inconvenience.

News: Intensive Language Programs prepare students for foreign service

Hello all, Chris here with your language news. Students enrolled in intensive language programs are receiving excellent preparation for foreign service. With classes from six to eight hours a day, students are truly given extensive language exposure in high-need languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. For the full article, click here:

Intensive Language Programs

Monday, July 25, 2011

News: Rhode Island sets minimum English Language Standards

Hello all, Chris here with your language learning news. Rhode Island has set minimum English language standards for teachers which may require some teachers to take a proficiency test in order to keep their jobs. To read the full article check here:
Rhode Island Sets Minimum English Standards

Friday, July 22, 2011

News: First Extensive Reading World Congress

Hello all, Claudia here with more conference information:

News: JALT 2011

Hello all, Claudia here with some more conference information. This time it is for the JALT conference:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

News: IOLC 2011


News: Cebu 2011 Conference

News: Workshop for Asian-Pacific Teachers of English

Monday, July 18, 2011

News:Online Alternatives to Language Classrooms

Language learning and in many cases language teaching is increasingly moving beyond the confines of the school or university classroom into online counterparts and virtual meeting places. A recent article reports on the wide variety of technologies available which enable language learners to access the tools and lessons they need in order to master whichever language(s) they wish to learn. These online language learning options offer the learner unparalleled flexibility and learners can even sign up for online tutoring, often for free.

The full article can be found here: Online Alternatives to Language Classrooms

All of these technological advances will sooner or later require language programs to restructure and modernize themselves or risk losing potential students to online learning options. What do you think? How do you use online technology in your language classes?

News: French Professor to gain knighthood!

A French professor at the university of South Carolina who has paired social media with her teaching to improve her students French language skills and knowledge of French culture will be knighted by the French government. Lara Lomicka Anderson will be inducted into an order founded by Napoleon which honors contributions to French language and culture. For the full article, check here: French Professor Knighted

News: Increased Demand leads to Degree in Mandarin Chinese

Increased demand at the University of Rhode Island has led to the creation of a bachelor's degree at the university. The program at URI is part of a federally funded program with nine schools total across the country. For the rest of the article, check here: Mandarin Chinese Degree Program

Sunday, July 17, 2011

2011 Japanese OPI Symposium

Hi all, Junko desu. Ohisashiburi desu (long time no see)!

There will be a symposium about OPI (oral proficiency interview) in Portland, OR during the first week of August. The symposium includes following topics; "Holding one another accountable in OPIs: A perspective from Conversation Analysis", "Pedagogy of Authentic Spoken Japanese","Authenticity in Japanese Language Education", and "Proficiency and Authenticity: Authenticity in Speaking/Writing and Preparation of Teaching Materials"

Follow the link for more details.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

News: First National Spanish Spelling Bee in the U. S

Hello all, Chris here with your language learning news. The first national Spanish spelling bee in the U. S. was recently held. To find out more, check the following link:

Spanish Spelling Bee

This brings up an interesting idea for classroom application: spelling bees in language classes.

  • Would these be more suitable to high school courses or would they work at the college level as well?
  • Are they better as activities or perhaps even graded assignments such as quizzes?
If you've used spelling bees or something similar in your classes please let us know by dropping a comment below the post!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

News: 9th Asia TEFL International Conference

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Semantics: Venn in Doubt

Hello everyone, Elizabeth here. Here's something I hate: I buy a delicious half-dozen doughnuts so that I'll have enough breakfast for a few days. After the doughnuts have sat for a while, the fabulous sweet coating on the glazed ones starts to get warm and soften, polluting the jelly doughnuts with its humidity so that when I finally go to eat them, the glazed ones drip everywhere, and the jelly ones taste soggy. This makes for a horrible breakfast, but it reminds me of a fun way to teach about semantics.

According to Wikipedia, a British lawsuit against the McVities corporation argued that the company's product, Jaffa Cakes, should be subject to the value-added tax on biscuits (cookies). The company successfully defended their claim that their product was a cake and not a biscuit (and therefore not subject to the tax) because cakes harden when they go stale, while biscuits/cookies get softer. I like to buy Jaffa Cakes for my students when it comes time for our semantics unit and see if, without this prior knowledge, they can come up with a consensus on whether what they are eating is a cookie or a cake. (You can obtain them online if they are not available in an import grocery near you). I first ask the students to give me a definition of "cake" and "cookie," then pass out the Jaffa Cakes and have them decide which term is the best fit. Most students do not think of the qualifier that was proposed in the lawsuit, and many feel that in spite of the staleness test, "cake" does not adequately identify the thing they are eating. (Many of the British public seem to agree).

I remembered this fun classroom activity while eating my soggy jelly doughnut recently, and wondered how my doughnut might hold up in court; could it be argued that my doughnut is a cookie? If not, what feature distinguishes a doughnut from a cookie (and from a cake)? I thought that perhaps this would be a good problem to introduce to broaden your lesson to include the concept that, according to many linguists, there are no "true" synonyms; every word has at least some distinct shade of meaning in at least one context that justifies its existence as a separate word in the language. To illustrate this for students, you might use a Venn diagram with interlocking circles for each item you want to compare (cakes, cookies, doughnuts, etc.). First have students propose features that they think define those items; then draw a Venn with the same number of circles as the number of items you are comparing, and as a class, decide where in the circles each identifying feature should go (does it describe just one item, or could it apply to two, or all three or more?). You can end the lesson by explaining to students that in the opinion of most linguists, every word has at least one feature in an "outside part of the circle;" your language could be conceived of as a series of overlapping circles (draw more and more on top of each other on the board), but no matter how many features any two words have in common, each one should theoretically have one part that is not shared with any other word. If it weren't so, why would it be necessary for the language to have that word? For whatever reason I notice a lot of students showing resistance to the idea of "no true synonyms" (I even had one test me by going to McDonald's and asking for a "Large Mac" and a "Big Coke," and he insisted that the cashier didn't bat an eye and gave him exactly what he intended to order), so the Venn illustration may help them see that words could be considered synonymous based on a significant number of features, while still retaining a tiny bit of uniqueness. It will also appeal to your visual learners.

Just be warned: though I have no idea how it is possible without getting quite a bit of chocolate under your fingernails, one of my students once managed to separate his Jaffa cake into layers and to extract the "squidgy orange bit" from the middle. He then threw it up high on the wall where, to his delight, it at least momentarily stuck. Don't mention to your students that this is possible, but be prepared in the event that you should have to deal with such a distraction.

Monday, July 11, 2011

French Video: Metropolis - La petite histoire du bikini

Bonjour, Johanne here again with another French video. Take a look at the following funny video which discusses the history of the bikini! Enjoy

Metropolis - La petite histoire du bikini -

Friday, July 8, 2011

News: A New Jersey College is Expanding its Foreign Language Programs

Hello all, Chris here with more language learning news. A recent article focuses on Bergen Community College in New Jersey which is actually expanding its foreign language offerings whereas most programs across the country are cutting back due to budgetary constraints. For the full article visit here:

New Jersey College Expands FL Programs

Thursday, July 7, 2011

News: Technology Improves ELL Lessons

Hello all, Chris here with your language learning news. Take a look at the following article from Education Week which focuses on how technology is being used to improve project based ELL lessons. According to digital integration specialist Vicki Reed, "technology tools can be used to help enhance project based learning for high school students who are learning English."

For the full article, check here: Technology Improves ELL Lessons

News: More Urban Schools Offer Mandarin Chinese

Hello all, Chris here with the latest language news. Take a look at this recent article detailing the increase in Mandarin Chinese courses being offered:

Mandarin Chinese

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Useful Websites: Comprehensive List

Below you will find a comprehensive list of links to various teaching websites! Check back often for updates!

ESL Links

French Links

Digital Dialects
Digital Dialects

General Teaching Sites

P     Photo Vocab: ( Photo Vocab is "a Spanish vocabulary builder that presents a Spanish word-of-the-day picked from the captions of the day’s most striking photography."
·         Professor Jehle: ( Jehle's site is one of the best I've found for Spanish grammar lessons. It's a must-see for any student.
·         Meetup:  ( Type "Spanish" in the search bar to find meetup groups designed to practice Spanish with people in your city.
·         StumbleUpon: ( If you like keeping up with the latest Spanish blog posts and links, sign up for a StumbleUpon account. It automatically refreshes websites that feature content that you're interested in seeing.
·         Yahoo Answers: ( you need a Spanish question answered fast, ask the yahoo answers members. Within seconds of posting, often you'll have multiple answers to your question.
·         Pinterest: (http://www.pinterest.comAt the moment, Pinterest isn't very search-friendly, but have no doubt that it will soon become a place to find some of the best Spanish links around. Sign up for an account and start pinning your favorite links.

200 Words a Day

Armored Penguin

Mind Zeit

Mixxer - Language exchange for everyone

The Language Menu

German Links



Currywurst Museum

Das Erste


Dialect Link



Games for Language

German World


Indiana AATG

Spiegel Museumsinsel

Step Into German


Wer Weiss Was



Japanese Links

Japanese Clip Art

Kanji Repeater 

Onomatopoeia with Manga

Spanish Links




News: Menus Added

Hello all, Chris here with some site news! Menus have been added to the top of the page to help you access the content you want easier! Find the latest posts or visit old favorites according to language. We've added menus for posts featuring downloadable materials, a list of links which will soon replace the link lists on the side to tidy that up, and a link to our products. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Release: Enfoque - Latin America

Hello all, Chris here with some exciting news! We've completed the first printing of Enfoque: Latin America! Here are a couple of pictures of the DVD with its case! Enfoque: Latin America is available to order. For orders or questions please email us at! We hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

News: Holiday Wishes

Hello all, Chris here. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday!

Friday, July 1, 2011

News: Federal Budget Cuts & Language Programs In Washington

Hello all, Chris here with your language learning news! A recent Seattle Times article focuses on Federal cuts to the University of Washington's global-language classes. Budget cuts are a persistent specter affecting language programs at all levels nationwide. You can read the full article here:

UW Federal Cuts


The common defense by those who try to fight federal/state/local budget cuts against language programs is that languages are a necessary component in the preparation of students for future jobs in a competitive global marketplace. This argument is seemingly the first and often only argument champions of language learning seem to be able to muster. It seems to be something of a mantra. While there is certainly no denying the validity of such arguments, it seems evident that we as language teachers, administrators, coordinators, and learners of the language must provide more varied and qualitative arguments for language study.

In today's global environment and with the economy being what it is we must provide firm arguments for maintaining language programs and language studies which clearly and unequivocally demonstrate their immediate and future financial necessity and benefits. For federal, state, and local governments to cease budget cuts we cannot simply state that language study is an important part of education or that it will help students be competitive on the job market. That argument seems rather self-evident and conjures an image of defeatism if it is truly the sole argument which can be mustered in the face of budget cuts each time the proverbial axe looms large over language programs.

Instead of falling back on the fact that language study is important it would seem more productive to offer demonstrable positive effects of language study. How will study of language X benefit student Y who is majoring in Z? What is the focus of language study? Are students able to attain fluency from a four years of high school study or a few more years at the university level? Are we preparing students to be functional speakers with a social and cultural awareness in whatever language(s) they are studying? Is language study at the university too frequently muddled by the inevitable necessity to switch from language courses to literature courses at the advanced levels? These are all questions which require serious answers and efforts to provide language study with goals and focus to meet budget cuts with concrete purpose and an active rather than passive stance when it comes to maintaining the very existence of our language programs.

What are your thoughts on budget cuts and issues with language teaching? Feel free to comment on the post!


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