COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education
February 20, 2009
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction
The Department of Education is pleased to announce that the week of March 2-6, 2009, has been designated as National Foreign Language Week. Alpha Mu Gamma foreign language honor society has sponsored National Foreign Language Week since 1957, and the theme for 2009 is “Many Hands, Many Voices, One World.” For general information about the event and the annual poster, please visit their website at http://www.lacitycollege.edu/academic/honor/amg/nflw.html.
In today’s increasingly interconnected world, Virginia’s students must become informed global participants. Technological advances in communication within the last few years have brought the world into our homes. Combined with a renewed emphasis on international cooperation, it has never been more important for our students to learn additional languages. The benefits of proficiency in other languages range from the practicality of being able to communicate and efficiently conduct international business to supporting academic achievement and other cognitive benefits. Individuals who are proficient in other languages can better understand the world around them and their place in it. The Discovering Languages Web page of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) at http://www.discoverlanguages.org maintains information about these and other benefits of language learning.
Virginia can be proud of its world language students and teachers. The Governor’s Foreign Language Academies have served over 6,500 students since their inception in 1986, and the summer opportunities were expanded to include a Chinese Academy through a federal STARTALK grant in 2008. Proposals have been submitted for new STARTALK grants for Chinese and Arabic programs for the summer of 2009. The Department of Education also provides a variety of online language courses through Virtual Virginia, including Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish. Virginia world language students continue to be involved in school and community international organizations and events, and many of our world language teachers are active participants in professional opportunities and associations within the state and nation.
We encourage schools to take this opportunity to highlight the value of learning world languages and learning about other cultures, and to celebrate the successes of world language students and teachers. Many schools organize annual schoolwide activities during this week, such as holding a parents’ night with skits, songs, or other cultural student performances in various languages; providing international food tastings; sponsoring a poster contest based on the theme for the year; or designating language tables during lunch where only a certain language may be spoken. For further information, please contact Helen Small, specialist for foreign languages, Office of Middle and High School Instruction, by e-mail at Helen.Small@doe.virginia.gov or by telephone at (804) 225-3666.