Exploring the US Language Flagship Program

This month we published Exploring the US Language Flagship Program edited by Dianna Murphy and Karen Evans-Romaine. In this post, the editors explain how the book came together.

Exploring the US Language Flagship ProgramThis book is the result of years of collaboration among a community of language educators and researchers who responded to a call by The Language Flagship, a federal program of the National Security Education Program in the US Department of Defense, to create new pathways for US undergraduate students in any specialization to reach a professional level of competence in a second language by graduation. Our own experience with the Language Flagship began in 2010, when we received a federal grant to establish an undergraduate Russian Flagship Program at our university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Establishing that program involved working across traditional disciplinary and institutional boundaries to develop new advanced courses and new curricular models, expand co-curricular language and culture learning opportunities on campus and overseas, better coordinate articulated programs of domestic and overseas study, and enhance assessment practices to provide students with ongoing feedback on their developing proficiency in Russian. Unlike more traditionally designed US undergraduate majors that are based on the completion of a sequence of required and elective courses, our Russian Flagship Program is oriented to the student’s achievement of proficiency-based targets and on the completion of a key set of learning experiences, culminating in a capstone year overseas that includes intensive advanced coursework and a professional overseas internship.

We understood that in addition to the resources on our home campus, we could greatly benefit from tapping into the experiences and expertise of colleagues in Russian at the three US colleges and universities with existing Russian Flagship Programs (Bryn Mawr College, Portland State University, and the University of California, Los Angeles); with the American Councils for International Education, which administers Russian overseas programs for all Russian Flagship programs; and with overseas host universities: Saint Petersburg State University (2010-13) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (2014-present), in Almaty, Kazakhstan. We learned a great deal from these colleagues and found the opportunity to collaborate across institutions to be exhilarating. As time went on, our community grew to include faculty and staff with Language Flagship programs in other languages as well: the federal Language Flagship initiative currently supports undergraduate Flagship programs in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi and Urdu, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Swahili, and Turkish (languages that are considered to be critical to US national security and competitiveness). These colleagues are now among those we turn to for ideas on curricular innovation and for research on advanced language learning in the context of US undergraduate education.

Editing this book has been our greatest learning experience so far. Contributors to the book are directors or other scholars affiliated with Language Flagship programs in many different languages and from many different colleges and universities, as well as from the US government. Their contributions to the volume include research-based studies as well as descriptions of instructional practice, on topics ranging from the genesis of this federal program to models for innovative program, course, and co-curricular design; strategies to promote learner independence; and research on heritage language learners, oral proficiency development in telecollaborative learning, and alumni perceptions of the impact of the program. The contributions to the book are from a variety of languages and perspectives, but reflect shared goals: to provide new opportunities for US undergraduates to reach a level of proficiency in the language and to develop advanced cultural knowledge and abilities that will enable them to use the language in their chosen profession. This book was the first volume on the relatively young US Language Flagship Program. We know that it won’t be the last!

Dianna Murphy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, diannamurphy@wisc.edu
Karen Evans-Romaine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, evansromaine@wisc.edu

For further information on the book please contact the authors at the addresses above or see our website.

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