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Less Commonly Taught Languages

Less commonly taught languages (or LCTLs) is a label used in the United States for languages other than the most commonly taught foreign languages in K-16 education. Covering a vast collection of world languages outside of English, these languages represent some of the world’s most popular and influential languages, such as Mandarin, Arabic, and Russian, to smaller regional languages, such as Finnish. Increasingly, new challenges to national security, accelerating international business interests, and a growing multicultural populations at home have created a dire need to teach and learn less commonly taught languages in the United States.

Nevertheless, since French, German, and Spanish are usually the only languages offered in the nation’s K-12 schools, many students fail to get a head start on the other languages that have emerged as especially valuable in today’s modern world. Even among the less commonly taught languages deemed “critical” by the U.S. government, qualified teachers and appropriate teaching materials are virtually nonexistent across the country’s schools. As such, the national effort to develop and promote programs for less commonly taught languages falls mainly to universities. The Title VI LRCs, working from foundations in both K-12 and higher-education, have served a crucial role in developing curricula, assessments, standards, teaching materials, and research, in addition to providing quality training for teachers.

The Center for Urban Language Teaching and Research (CULTR), for example, is working on projects that impact instruction for less commonly taught languages. Focusing on innovative approaches to LCTL research, CULTR’s projects study the less commonly taught languages of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese across an array of variables and perspectives to offer valuable insights and opportunities. The Center solicited proposals from Georgia State University’s faculty for research projects that fit within the scope and mission of our LRC. Ten proposals were submitted, all of which were reviewed by the project co-directors for their relevance to the LRC, the quality of the proposal, and the feasibility of conducting the study within the proposed budget and allocated resources. From this process, CULTR identified four projects that merited support based on the above criteria. These projects can be explored further below.

The Role of Task Complexity in Promoting Foreign Language Learning
This study will explore Robinson’s Cognition Hypothesis which predicts that increasing the complexity of instructional tasks will promote more interaction opportunities for language learners during task-based interaction, and therefore, facilitate their language knowledge and use (Robinson, 2001, 2007).To date, the majority of studies targeted English language learners, and a little attention has been given to the acquisition of LCTLs such as Korean. The study will test the Cognition Hypothesis in light of the relationship between task complexity and their linguistic performance (complexity, accuracy, fluency) during task performance.
Content Validity of Japanese Language Proficiency Test
This study aims to investigate the content validity of the gap-filling (or rational deletion cloze) test included in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), a high stake standardized test offered by the Ministry of Education. One validity question is whether cloze tests measure only local linguistic knowledge or global comprehension ability. The study attempts to clarify this issue by qualitatively examining test-takers’ retrospective verbal reports.
Geolocative Linguistic Landscape Project
This place-based language learning project offers opportunities to university students to explore how Korean is used outside of language class. In groups, students will visit a site or site(s) where Korean is used for different purposes and investigates the use of language within that context. The students collect data (picture, video, sound files, etc.) and then make a short video describing their results. Finished products will be shared on the center website, along with instructions for how to replicate this project in other cities or with other languages.
Bearing the Motivational Burden: Emotion Labor of U.S. Foreign Language Teachers
Led by Dr. Kris Acheson-Clair, this study sheds light on the relationship between student attitudes and the effectiveness of US foreign language curriculum through the scope of emotion labor. The theoretical construct has recently spread from communication and psychology to education literature as researchers acknowledged that the issue affects teachers as well. Although student emotions in SLA have been examined, the field of applied linguistics has not yet tapped the explanatory potential of teacher emotions. In this qualitative study, the emotion work of teachers in U.S. foreign language classrooms is explored by interviewing Spanish high school teachers.