Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tech Gadgets Aid Language Teaching

I love this article because it describes exactly the way I believe ‎language should be taught, or at least how to use some of the high tech gadgets out there ‎in language teaching. Eventhough I believe that the computer lab in a school environment ‎is great, I also believe that students should be able to carry their language learning tools ‎with them wherever they go. I have an HP iPaq on which I added a 1 GB SD memory ‎card. On the card I keep my audio lessons (Berlitz, Pimsleur etc.) I also keep my ‎vocabulary lists and some other stuff. I use Wikipedia to access Farsi articles and read blogs ‎to sharpen my knowledge of spoken Farsi and how it is expressed (much better and richer ‎than formal news sources). I also use a Walkman for some audio tapes that haven't been ‎digitized yet.‎
I talked about the Rosetta Stone program the other day and I love it but I don't think they ‎have it in MP3 format. Pimsleur on the other hand have converted their lessons to MP3 ‎format and they sell it along with an MP3 player. As I said before, I love both, but I ‎prefer the mobility of the MP3 format.‎

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How To Find An Arabic Program That Meets Your Needs

New Arabic Programs seem to be ‎everywhere. Universities hungry for federal funding or those that want to capitalize on ‎the interest. So how do you know what to choose? I would investigate first of all the ‎infrastructure provided by the university and how long this infrastructure has been there. ‎By that I mean: Is there a language lab? Does the program seem innovative enough? or in ‎other words what is unique about the program? does it offer more immersion, unique ‎curriculum, seasoned professors or all the above? I would look at the syllabus and try to ‎find the value proposition. There are many Arabic programs out there but extremely few ‎have any declared value propositions (or in other words the thing that makes them unique ‎and useful for the student). I they have a unique method or idea then by all means sign up ‎otherwise don't waste your time and keep looking. ‎

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chu Interview

Media Roundtable with Dr. David Chu, Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness)
Interesting interview...

Learning Arabic Abroad

Learning Arabic abroad is a good idea if you have lots of money and you know your way around. I happen to be from Jordan and I have known many people who went through the UOJ Arabic program and who told me later that they didn't get much out of it. But being in Jordan they ended up hiring private tutors (less than 7 dollars an hour) and built their own immersion course. Those courses abroad, according to the experience of many, still leave much to be desired despite their benefit of letting the student understand the culture better. It all depends on needs and what results are desired.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I like the Rosetta Stone But...

Army offers foreign language training - Minnesota Daily

Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Berlitz and anything you can get your hands on in the initial stages of learning is great. I love all of it. I have been working on my Farsi and Dari for the past year and a half and I have used the Farsi curriculum from all the above and the results were amazing. But I am a linguist and a language teacher. I know how to motivate and guide myself and how to avoid the trappings of frustration when you're stuck. Online learning is a great idea but giving our soldiers and language learners in the armed forces the Rosetta Stone without any further instruction or interaction is not sufficient and will not produce the desired results. RS needs to be supplemented with classroom instruction and the human touch. Maybe the military is doing this already, I don't know because I don't have access. But what I know is that commercial grade language materials should be supplemented by things like online conferencing, Podcasting and voice enabled instant messaging. If you have some good feedback on the subject I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

National Security language Initiative

I still haven't had time to look at the text of the initiative, but for those of you who have the time to look here is this link and this link to the fact sheet.
I also found a good discussion of the initiative on this link. The writer has a unique idea but I am not sure he is familiar with the needs of the military and other agencies as far as languages are concerned. The military language student is a unique individual with extremely unique needs. Following a strict academic and scholastic approach to language teaching and learning with military and security students DOES NOT work. Following the strict academic and scholastic approach is slowing down the production of capable military intelligence students. I have proven that point several times. Most recently I did a 53 weeks project for the US Navy where we managed to get the students to graduate in 46 weeks (down from 72 currently at other institutions). I hae developed my methods now to where it can be done in 36 weeks. I also managed to raise the scores of a refresher class by one full point into the 2+ and 3 territory in 15 days. I will not go into the technical details of that but it is sufficient for me to say that things like that are doable by NOT following the academic approach.
The language trainer that is needed for projects like that is a unique breed and I doubt that they are bred in the Middle East either. For language instructors to produce results they must be familiar with a wide range of fields and skills including psychology, motivation, communications, computer science, curriculum planning and development, knowledge of the Internet and technologies that can be used in the class room and above all fluent, level 5, knowledge (and cultural awarenes) of the English language and English-speaking people so that they can communicate freely with their students. My advice is to spend some of that money the President is authorizing on developing such teachers and teacher-training networks. The worst thing that can happen is for the money to end up in the hands of teachers' unions who still cannot produce kids who can read English from our public schools.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


LINGUISTIC NEED: A step in the right direction. "Lost amid the debate over English as America's 'official language' is the fact that foreign language study in U.S. schools and universities has been on the decline.
Not only has a serious shortage of linguists resulted, but some experts contend it poses national security issues in the wake of 9/11.
The Bush administration is seeking $114 million to boost foreign language study in fiscal 2007. Although this isn't a lot of money by federal standards, it is a step in the right direction, one that also should include granting more visas for foreign students to attend American schools.

Different countries of the world, particularly those that don't agree on very much, need to learn more about what makes each other tick. Language skills and rubbing shoulders with one another can only improve the channels of communication."

Arabic Program At University of Jordan

Not a bad program and it seems that many people like it. I have friends go through it and never heard any complaints but I remember not being very impressed with the curriculum.

School Officials Propose Adding Arabic and Chinese - News - Arlington Connection - Connection Newspapers

School Officials Propose Adding Arabic and Chinese - News - Arlington Connection - Connection Newspapers: Not a bad idea. The challenge will be having proper curriculums and enough trained instructors. "This fall Arlington middle school and high school students will be able to enroll in Arabic and Mandarin Chinese courses, and earn college credits, if the School Board approves a proposal it is set to vote on next week.
The school staff is recommending the two languages be taught in a countywide after-school program, to be held at a Northern Virginia Community College facility in Arlington and conducted by the college’s professors. "


WTOP: U.S. suspending publication of Arabic language magazine
This is a really unfortunate piece of news. I think the content of the magazine as well as the name 'Hi' should be changed. Hi is a word used by people who are considered the aristocracy and is looked down on by the people we really need to be changing. Give the magazine a stronger name, give it more daring and thought provoking content and you got a winner.

Perfect Pairs

Is English the world’s oyster?: The following quote is interesting. While the need is great now for the Arabic/English pair due to the war on terror, I totally believe that knowledge of a third language always increases your value and effectiveness. I can see the need for the Arabic/Chinese or Arabic/Farsi skill or even Arabic/Russian. As the world grows and commercial ties increase knowledge of two or three languages will be your greatest asset. Here is the quote or you can click above to go to the full article which is very interesting.
"Huang You Yi, vice-president of the Chinese Translators Association, stressed that the greatest need was not for more English-speaking, but for more Spanish-proficient Chinese, due to the rapidly expanding trade ties with South America. For the same reason, he added, Arabic language skill would soon become equally important. The national television organisation CCTV has recently complemented its established English-speaking channel with a new one operating in French and Spanish. In 2004 German joined English, Japanese and Korean as a specialisation at the huge college where I taught. French, in particular, is likely to gain a strong following since France and China have just shared a Year of Cultural Friendship and signed an extensive economic and trade agreement."