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EDUCATOR SERVICES AND RESOURCES  / ADVOCACY AND GROWTH FOR RUSSIAN PROGRAMS
31.10.2012


Important Note:  Advocacy is most effective for growth and prevention, not  treatment!  Don't wait for the axe to start falling... grow and promote your programs now! It will serve you well in the future.
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Education for Global Leadership is a 2006 publication from the US government's Committee on Economic Development.  It is a sixty-nine page pdf file full of arguments on why US universities must teach students to understand foreign languages and foreign cultures if the US economy is to competitive in global markets.

I.  Advocacy Groups and Sites

The Sound Bites Project brings you bite-sized arguments for funding and maintaining Russian programs. 

700 Reasons to Learn a Language from Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton.

Dr. Robert D. Peckham at the University of Tennessee has an online essay and numerous links supporting the study of foreign languages.

US Global Competence is a government-supported initiative to help ensure that the US stays competitive in the global spheres of economics and diplomacy.

NYSAFLT has compiled several documents that will help you support the foreign language advocacy conversation with your regional and state elected officials.

Noble, the Network of Business Langauge Educators, provides considerable advocacy resources on its site.

The Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS) are joint organizations with mission to advance the idea that Americans must have the opportunity to learn and use English and at least one other language.  They believe that language and international education are clearly in the public and national interest. Knowledge of other languages increases intellectual abilities and provides a window of understanding to other customs and cultures. Although once considered basic educational priorities, language education and international studies lack adequate support and recognition as essential components of today's school curriculum. Only with language competence can Americans hope to conduct effective trade policy, expand international trade, ensure the integrity of national defense, enhance international communication, and develop a truly broad-based education for all citizens.

LanguagePolicy.org is the website run by JNCL-NCLIS (above) specifically to advocate and encourage language programs. 

Russnet.org is a joint project by AATSEEL and ACTR to argue for the practicality of learning Russian.

ProfessorAndy.com provides advocacy and lots of teaching resources. 

The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) is the world's largest association for the language industry. As a non-profit organization, we provide resources, education, knowledge and research for thousands of global companies.

JNCL-NCLIS seeks to ensure that Americans have the opportunity to learn English and at least one other language, to advance the language profession in the US, and to raise awareness about the importance of language and international education to the national interest.

YearofLanguages.org is an advocacy group dedicated to an "ambitious effort to promote the value of language learning." They are focused on media campaigns, and influencing national policy on language learning. 

II.  Articles and Reports Providing Advocacy

1.  From the Media

Russian in the Real World is an extensive article by Paul Richardson of Russian Life Magazine.  In it, he describes how several professional people have learned and continue to use Russian.  (article in .pdf)

Does Russia Matter? is an editorial also by Paul Richardson of Russian Life Magazine, in which he argues for Russia's significance in the world.

SRAS Interviews and Personalities provides interviews and stories from professionals who use Russian in their jobs and from students who hope to use Russian professionally.

2. From Universities

Georgia Tech provides its own page of reason to studies Russian - covering business, politics, culture, and regional concerns for Georgia.

Connecticut College presents a three-minute video made by one of their students, Kathy Avgerinos, who studied in Moscow as part of her Senior Integrated Project for the college.

3. From Government Sources

President George W. Bush spoke to a group of University Presidents and championed the National Security Language Initiative, one that he has been largely credited with.  Unfortunately, he focuses on humor in the speech, and never mentions economic benefits to language study, but there are arguments that language study is "critical to national security."

Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education, spoke at the same conference.  Her comments are more useful, concentrating not only on security, but global competitiveness in business and education.   

THE STATE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE CAPABILITIES IN NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT was presentation before the Congressional committee in 2000 about the "crisis in language learning."  The fact that President bush has recently pushed the National Security Language Initiative indicates that the supply of speakers of foreign languages (including those of the FSU) is still problematic for the Federal Government. 

The Departments of Education and State also argue for learning languages like Russian. 

William J. Burns, Ambassador to Russia, underscored the importance of studying and understanding Russia, which will play a major role in the world political arena and economy for many years to come. 

The government's official World Fact Book on Russia shows the country to be strong economically and troubled politically, indicating that the US will be active in Russia for years to come. 

State Department information on assistance to Russia shows we already are.   

The Senate Names 2006 the "Year of Study Abroad"  "An education that includes study abroad not only opens doors to careers, it opens minds and worlds of possibility." 

Framework for the 2004 Foreign Language National Assessment is a document produced by the federally funded National Assessment Governing Board and provides a handful of good arguments for foreign language learning. However, most of its focus is on Spanish and the results of this scheduled assessment have not been found. 

State Department briefing on actions in and plans for Central Asia (where Russian is a major language of business and diplomacy).

III Statistics
Bureaucrats love numbers. We've provided them here for language assessment as well as those for statistics on how other departments are doing. Be sure to report your statistics! 

1. Monterey Language Stats

The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, divides the languages they teach into four groups, from easiest to most difficult, as measured by the number of hours of instruction required to bring students to a certain level of proficiency. Below are sample lists of the languages included in each group. 

Group I: Languages included: Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Norwegian, Protuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish

Group II: Bulgarian, Dari, Farsi, German, Greek, Hindi-Urdu, Indonesian, Malay

Group III:  Amharic, Bengali, Burmese, Czech, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Cambodian, Lao, Nepali, Philipino, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Sinhala, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese

Group IV:  Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean 

    Information on the Groups

Group

I

II

III

IV

Hours needed to reach Level-2 Proficiency  480  720  720  1320
Speaking proficiency level expected of a student with superior language aptitude, after 720 hours of instruction 

 3

2+/3

2/2+

1+

 

ACTFL Learning Guidelines, another proficiency measure, can be found on their site.

2.  Statistics Services for Russian Programs

The Committee on College and Pre-College Russian (CCPCR) offers a large database of well-maintained statistics, complete with contact information for reporting schools.

CARLA (Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition) offers a list of high schools and grade schools offering Russian and other Less-Commonly-Taught Languages.

Modern Language Association also compiles periodic enrolment statistics for language programs.

AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and Eastern European Languages) has recently compiled a listing of programs available from America's top 50 liberal arts colleges and top 50 research universities.  (Note: these are not the best Russian programs, but programs available from top universities.)

The National Directory of Early Foreign Language Programs provides information on early learning language programs in the US from 1998. (It says it was to be updated, but seems it has not been).

The Association of Departments of Foreign Language (ADFL) did a survey of enrollment for undergraduate foreign language programs in 2002. Check their resources page for other interesting statistics.

Ethnologue is an encyclopedic reference work cataloging all of the world’s 6,912 known living languages. Unfortunately, its information is often dated and incomplete, but there's an awful lot to work with here. See their entry for Russian.

IV. Marketing Your Program

Of course, the best defence is often a good offence. A few things to keep in mind when promoting your program or developing new programs, events, or advertising:

1.  What is Cool?  Although students often shy away from studies, most consider recent Russian history and the Cyrillic alphabet "cool." Consider, for example, that when the popular video game Tetris was released (which was developed by a Russian) it was marketed with the name written in capital letters so that the "R" could be reversed to resemble the Russian "Я." Several spy movies and the recent state-side release of Nochnoi Dozor also mixed in Cyrillic letters with titles and advertising. It is cliche, but it also catches the eye, and can also be a good starting point for introducing the alphabet (by explaining that most times the letters are used improperly). 

2.  Soviet Chic.  With the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, a certain chic has developed around its history, symbols, and personages. This chic might be naïve and even misguided, but it can be a good opening point for attracting attention to your programs or events. You can frame it in terms of "dispelling myths" or providing "the real story."

3.  Affirmations.  The biggest deterrent to marketing is the fear of rejection or of appearing naïve. This will happen.  Accept it. Keep trying. Eventually you will find a style of asking for what you want that works for you, and after a couple of successes, you will gain the confidence to do it more often. 

4.  Первый блин всегда комом.  If you start a new program and it doesn't do so well the first time or even the first couple of times, don't worry about that either. Organizations and traditions take time to develop and need nurturing. Think of them like children: have patience, keep plugging, and continually ask yourself what you should do to improve. 

5.  Don't Need. Offer.  Crossmarketing with other departments can be a great way to expand your program and make others' programs more practical in a global world. But how do you approach the other departments? Ask yourself first what exactly you need from them. People are much more likely to act if presented with a specific plan with little or no decision making (beyond yes or no). Even if discussion or more development would be needed, a specific plan is more thought-provoking and much more constructive place to start this process. Then, the next step is to ask yourself what these people will gain by giving you what you want. Your proposal should be presented not in terms of what you want, but the partnership you offer.

 

V. Develop the Market

Most major industries have realised that it is much more effective to market their product to those who aren't already familiar with it or don't know they need it.  It's called "developing the market" and is designed to enlarge your present and future "customer base."

Showing students how foreign language study can help their pursuits in non-language fields can result cross-over enrollment and multidisciplinary students. Also, consider that the greater the awareness of Russian programs and culture is within your campus and community, the more likely students are to gain curiosity about Russia and your program.

An ADFL study from 1999 about developing community and interdepartmental connections, found these connections advisable for promoting language learning!  (See esp. after p. 12.)

1.  On Campus Activities

a.  International Festivals.  Many colleges and universities already have International Festivals of some sort.  Take advantage of these by organizing, at part of the festivities, beginning language mini-seminars, Russian food booths, and other displays of Russian language and culture.  You can use your more advanced students to run these classes, though you will likely want to be involved in curriculum planning and supervision.  If your institution does not have such a festival, approach the student government in starting one – they are often quite popular. Make sure invitations go out to your community, local schools, and businesses. 

b. Olympiada. Encourage students to show off thier Russian skills by putting them in actual competition with others and offering them fame and valuable prizes. (Ok, maybe not that much, but you get the concept.)

c.  International Campuses. Encouraging foreign students and professors to come to your campus can often result in increased awareness and interest in studying foreign cultures.

  • American Councils runs a fully-funded program that can bring scholars from countries like Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to your school.
  • Fulbright also offers funding for foreign scholars and lecturers. 

d.  Guerrilla Warfare.  If you have students who are willing take risks, consider guerrilla theatre.  Have your students learn a short, active scene in Russian – then perform it once or twice in a public place (like the Student Union).  Afterwards, make sure you have someone explain to the crowd that gathered that it was Russian they just saw and that classes are available.  Combining an activity like this with a follow-up (such a campus speaker or mini-seminar) can be the most effective.  Consider asking someone from the theatre department for assistance in directing. 

e.  Guest Speakers.  Having interesting and knowledgeable people come to your campus to speak on modern Russian politics and economics, US-Russia relations, aspects of modern Russian history, etc. can be a good way to generate interest.  Make sure you make the most of it by introducing the speaker as sponsored by your department and by having fliers about any Russia-related programs the university offers on hand. 

f.  Broadcast Culture.  Approach your campus radio station, television stations, and theatre departments (or even those in the community) about helping them deliver more Russia-focused programming.  Having expert advice in selecting and presenting material is most often highly desirable.   

g.  Russian Food Days.  Most everyone likes borsch, pelmeni, and blini.  Approach your school cafeteria about hosting international days.  Make sure to use the event to your advantage by having fliers on hand explaining the food, perhaps with information about its history and cultural relevance – and that more information is available from your classes. 

h.  Phone Bridges.  Simply using the phone can help create new incentives for learning an using what is learned in the classroom.  It works well for universities, high schools, and grade schools.  AccessToIdeas.com has several pages devoted to their bridges. 

2.  Community and School Outreach
You might also consider that schools house future Russian students.  The tobacco industry, according to recent lawsuits, had effective advertising aimed at children that resulted in adult smokers.  McDonald’s admits that its advertising aimed at children is produced partially in the hopes that those children, as adults, will continue to associate good feelings with cheap hamburgers.  This type of marketing can be quite effective over the long term, especially in state schools that tend to enroll the graduates of local high schools. 

a.  Sister City Programs.  Encouraging your city to adopt a Russian sister city can be a good way to spark interest in your community.  Just make sure you continue to use the program - encourage local media to cover events, encourage radio and TV stations to make room for Russia-related programing, and encourage events within local schools.  If people from your sister city travel to yours, make sure they meet with not only the usual local dignitaries, but with college Russian classes and local school children to talk about their language, local city, and culture.  Find out more from Sister-cities.org

b.  Russian Days.  As a once-a-semester activity, coordinate "Russian days" with local K-12 schools. Involve your students in presenting the basic concept of foreign languages (some children might have very little experience with it), and teach them some basic phrases (my name is… I love you… etc.) This will have the added benefit of making your program more practical by giving your students pedagogy experience. Older students can be exposed to some basic grammatical concepts and a wider knowledge of Russian history and culture. Taking kids and teachers some blini and borsch will also likely endear them to your subject. You can also apply this to educating the educators at local schools how to present Russian-themed material.  

c.  Summer Programs.  Some universities offer summer camp type programs for science and math – often framing it with a concept that kids like (like space flight).  Usually, local kids enroll and spend a few hours at the university each day and go home for dinner and bed.  Developing camps for foreign languages would be a good way to follow up on "Russian Days."  You can decrease your costs and the time needed by partnering with another language department and perhaps the history and even theatre programs.  Most parents are willing to pay a little to get the kids out of the house and into worth-while summer programs.

d.  The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) gives grants to schools that form language programs for youth.  For a list of awards given to Russian-centered programs, click here.  For more information about the program, see LanguagePolicy.org and click on "FLAP" on the main menu.

 

VI.  Involve and Encourage Students 

1.  Empower Russian Clubs.  Clubs can be a great way to harness student support for programs and for organizing events to bolster program visibility and prestige (see Section III, Develop the Market). Consider giving the club the status of an advisory counsel for your department – involve them in creating or revising classes and hiring new staff. You needn't give them an absolute vote nor need you involve them with confidential department information. However, empowering students is a good way to keep them in the department and more active, which is likely to attract still more students.  

2.  Get Students Published.  If you have students who research and write well, encourage them to publish. SRAS currently sponsors an academic journal called Vestnik, The Journal of Russian and Asian Studies, which accepts and publishes student contributions on any subject pertaining to Russia or the New States of Eurasia.   If your student's work is accepted, make sure to notify others in your department, the campus newspaper and other local news agencies.  Maximizing the coverage you can get from any event is key to making the most of any marketing opportunity. 

3.  Encourage Pedagogy.  As the old saying goes - sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it. Teaching can also bolster program practicality by giving students a resume builder which will show that they have experience in public speaking and explaining difficult concepts.  Section III will provide quite a few ideas for forums for these projects.  Of course, this is best for more advanced students, best as a required and integrated course component, and best if the resume potential is well explained beforehand. 

4.  Encourage Competition.  Forming "Regional Olympiada" with other Russian departments in your area can be a great way for you to network and have your students network with others that share their interest in Russian.  It also creates some exposure for the university (particularly if you host or win the event) that administrators often like to see.

 


 

NYSAFLT has compiled several documents that will help you support the foreign language advocacy conversation with your regional and state elected officials.

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