Thanks to the travel grant from Berkeley Language Center, I attended the 21st Annual conference of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL). I try to attend this conference regularly as it is the only conference that focuses specifically on LCTLs. It is always nice to see colleagues from different universities, share our challenges and struggles, and keep helping and encouraging each other.
At this year’s conference I presented a paper entitled “Learning a Foreign Language as Strategy: Attitudes of Learners of “Strategic” Languages (Arabic and Persian) and of Local Heritage Languages (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish) toward the Foreign Language Communities”. This study investigated the attitudes of American college learners of “strategic” less commonly taught languages (LCTLs), specifically Arabic and Persian as well as of local heritage languages, i.e., Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish) at a large public Midwestern research university in the United States. The study explored: (1) how students of the mentioned languages described foreign language (FL) communities; (2) the role that students’ attitudes and imagination played as learners chose to affiliate or not to affiliate with FL communities. Results revealed that in all three language groups the majority of respondents held positive attitudes toward the respective NSs, cultures and countries. Students of Arabic and Persian were attuned to the political importance of their respective FL whereas students of Scandinavian languages were particularly aware of — and in many instances admired — governmental and social structures in Scandinavian countries.
This conference also gave me the opportunity to attend various sessions focusing on LCTL pedagogy and how to increase enrolment in our classes. One of the sessions that I really enjoyed was integrating technology in the classroom. The presenter introduced Blended and Flipped learning and showed us how we could combine classroom and online instruction in our language classrooms. This presentation was really informative and gave me new insights for using blended and flipped learning in order to make a better use of class time. Another presentation was on reasons that students take LCTLs and how we could use these reasons to motivate our students in the classroom.