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Toward development of a language diversity curricular thread in K-12 education

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Title: Toward development of a language diversity curricular thread in K-12 education
Issue Date: 28 Feb 2013
Description: Lack of awareness of the value of language diversity among the general public is a significant barrier for advocates of endangered languages. Even among the highly educated, the simple facts of language endangerment are largely unknown, and in fact those in positions of influence may undervalue endangered languages because of the role of languages of wider communication in their own personal experience and success. Endangered language conservation efforts are impacted by the attitudes of the wider community through policy, media, and technological development; in this paper, we consider how to bring awareness of language diversity broadly to the youth who will be shaping the infrastructure of tomorrow.

We describe an approach to incorporating a language diversity thread in the K­12 foreign language curriculum. Foreign language teachers are well positioned to take on this challenge because they are already language advocates, often already teach the culture and geography of regions where marginalized languages are spoken, and have flexibility in their curriculum to integrate a layer of enrichment. We hypothesized that the simple act of introducing language communities living in the regions where the language being taught is spoken will have a cumulative impact on students’ awareness and valuing of language diversity

To explore this idea, we designed two short lesson sequences connecting with units to be implemented at a local school where students K­5 receive 15 minutes of Spanish instruction daily. Developmentally appropriate surveys were given several days before and after the lessons, focusing on two questions: the child’s estimate of the number of languages spoken in the world, and the value of continuing to speak an endangered language when a language of wider communication is available.

In two second­grade classes, the study was implemented during a thematic unit about the regions of Peru. Students learned about the Quechua people and Quechua language, which are both important components of Peruvian cultural identify. The students then hypothesized the origin of various Spanish and Quechua words. In two fourth­grade classes studying Spain, students learned also about the Catalan, Basque, and Galician languages, hypothesizing the number of speakers as well as the regions in which these languages are spoken. At the end of the unit, students learned briefly about the Spanish Civil War and how the war impacted attitudes towards languages spoken in Spain in past and present.

Impact measures, methods, observations, and planned extensions will be detailed in the presentation.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/26179
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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