Education About Asia: Online Archives

Education in Asian Languages

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Scratch any Asian Studies specialist from whatever discipline, and you may find a person whose most revealing insights came through an encounter with language. No amount of lecturing on Asian specificities and differences can equal the impact of learning negation, the colors, orthography, or politeness strategies in another language. All across the curriculum in the English-speaking world, more awareness of Asia and more facility with foreign language are being called for as we face the twenty-first century. Asian language study, K-16, is the necessary link between these two imperatives.

In light of this, it only makes sense to launch a column on the teaching of Asian languages at all levels. I hope you will agree that this is an important undertaking, and that you will help us develop the column through your requests and contributions. The goal here is to be a practical advocate for and facilitator of short-term work and long-range planning in Asian language education.

To begin with the larger context, the column will advocate the enhanced funding, training, and status of professional language teachers. Asian language study needs to find active incorporation into curricula at all institutions. How is this to happen, however, when it is not uncommon for faculty in EuroAmerican fields to fail to appreciate the fact that Asian studies is an indispensable component of multiculturalism and internationalization—those two slogans that by rights should mean our time has come? Addressing these issues is every bit as important as daily success in the classroom.

All else is for naught, of course, if instruction is not effective. The column will focus on strategies for the improvement of instruction, and provide concrete ideas for the classroom. Instruction improves with effective strategies, but also with due attention to evaluation, goals, articulation, and integration. Both the discussion of how to evaluate student progress and evaluation of existing programs and practices can be applied across Asian languages. Cutting vertically through each language is the set of goals we pursue in teaching and the articulation of those goals. Much of the groundwork has been laid by the National Standards in Foreign Language Education Collaborative Project, but the implementation of those standards in a variety of Asian languages will take time.

With the diversity of opportunities available now, instructors need to be more conscious of how students might negotiate moves from one kind of learning situation to another. The articulation of goals becomes crucial at the points where students move between institutional levels. As schools expand their offerings, instructors may become aware that area high school preparation does not mesh with college courses, for example, and that the reduplication of effort as colleges partially retrain these students leads to frustrated learners.

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