Making the Language Real, Part I – Career Fair


If you are a foreign language educator in P-12 education, then you have probably heard from your older students this complaint: Why do I need to take a foreign language?  Immigrants need to learn English. It’s not like I’m going to use it anyway. Insert your own complaint here. Yet, this attitude is expected from some.

What about students who are curious in learning a language outside of English? You may have students who have an interest but will not consider continuing studying after they finish their two-year language requirement. Why? Students may see that continuing language studies as some futile hobby. I can relate because I was the same way. Graduating into the real world opened my eyes to many possibilities, however. 

How do you cultivate learning for students who are interested in continuing on past the two-year foreign language requirement? The number 1 answer that I can give you is to demonstrate where learning a foreign language can be beneficial in the real world. Teachers and / or professional interpreters, I am going to challenging you. Right now. 

Are you ready? Consider creating a job for foreign language majors and anyone else that may be interested. Some employers may have a program for high school students to observe a professional in a particular field. You are probably thinking, easier said than done. Depending where you live, you could be right. So, we are going to develop a plan. Pens or pencils up and prepare to write or if you have a printer, get ready to hit the printer icon.

How to make language real in the real world:  Sure, one can become a teacher of languages whether it is a modern foreign, classical, heritage, or signed. They also may opt to become a translator in the courts and hospitals but what if no one wants to do that? These tips are in no particular order.

  • First things first. It is important that you know your students’ interests. You may have students who are not wanting to work in medicine, law, government or education (fields where interpreters are usually needed).
  • Once you have an idea of your students’ interests and have taken inventory, it is time to start climbing the yellow pages and look for organizations and businesses that offer services for immigrants. You may include businesses and organizations (religious, non-profit, and civic) related to fields like medicine, law, government, and education. Call these places and find out what communities they serve. The answer may surprise some of you.
  • Create a database that will allow students to get an idea of how many businesses and organizations are in need of bilingual assistance  
  • If the idea of a career fair is too unrealistic, then at least see if someone would come and talk to your class once a month.
  • If the idea of a multilingual career fair seems daring and something you want to try, I suggest that you do not make this a one man effort. Involve other langauge educators, not just at your school, but at neighboring schools that are in a 20 minute radius. Make it regional! For example, if you live in the Memphis area, let’s say your home school is Wooddale High. You may opt to include the following schools: Wooddale Middle, Sheffield, Overton High, Ridgeway High, Kirby High, Kirby Middle, MUS, and Hutchinson. The size of the group that you include is up to you.
  • We can’t have a career fair and not include some colleges and universities that offer programs for students interested in either majoring or minoring in a language. Research the schools that offer langauge programs and contact their representatives. It will be nice for students to see how vast the language learning community can be.
  • Create a personal library. Include movies, monolingual dictionaries and thesaurus, literature of all genres, magazines, newspapers and music in your classroom for students to look over during free time or for a class project. A print rich environment allows for more access for students to create their own langauge learning incentives.
  • College in the classroom: Does your school offer an AP language program for a language other than English? If not, research dual enrollment for students who express interest in studying a langauge on the college level. Also, it would not hurt to request catalogues from colleges and universities that offer language learning programs in the United States and abroad.
  • Volunteer organizations: If you decide that you may want to include some civic and religious organizations, you might want to consider contacting missionary organizations for students who can’t wait for college to practice their chosen langauge(s).
  • Language study groups: It is always a good idea to network. I recommend Meetup.com to find languages dedicated to language and cultural groups. The events that these groups have are fun and are in relaxed environment. You will meet all kinds of people from professional  educators, life long learners, to the nervous novice who immediately finds their comfort when they are not put on a spot in a classroom. Many of these groups practice the language in a restaurant or bar. Sometimes, they may go to a local festival, host a movie night, or go to a play related to a particular language group. Anyone who visits these Meetup.com meetings will find an easygoing group that will not make you feel self-conscious about your language ability or inability.

Are you up for the challenge? The next post will be a brief hint on where to start if you want to set up a career fair.

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~ by animeheather on 10/09/2010.

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