Superintendent's Memo #034-10

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education

February 12, 2010

TO: Division Superintendents

FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT: National Foreign Language Week, March 1-7, 2010

The Virginia Department of Education is pleased to announce that the week of March 1-7, 2010, 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 2010 is “Spread Your Wings! Learn a New Language!” 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.

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.

Virginia can be proud of its world language students and teachers. The Governor’s Foreign Language Academies in French, German, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish have served nearly 7,000 high school students since their inception in 1987, and the summer opportunities have been expanded in recent years to include Arabic and Chinese Academies funded through the federal STARTALK grant program. For further information, please visit the Department’s website at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/foreign_language/language_academies/index.shtml. The Department of Education also provides a variety of online language courses through Virtual Virginia at http://www.virtualvirginia.org, including Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish, with Arabic courses currently under development. 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.

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.

PIW/HIS/yba