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.
While 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. Working from foundations in both K-12 and higher-education, CULTR and the other Title VI LRCs have served a crucial role in developing curricula, assessments, standards, teaching materials, and research, in addition to providing quality training for teachers.
Based on LRC core values, CULTR has established the objectives and related projects for the 2022-2026 funding cycle. Our research is centered around the development of materials and assessments in less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). Specifically, CULTR now focuses on Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, all of which are taught in Georgia State University’s Department of World Languages and Cultures. The following projects are expected to be completed by 2026.
While the current research projects will be updated as they are completed, we invite you to explore our previous grant cycle (C2) research below.
C2: R1 – Mapping the DLI Opportunity Gap.
CULTR will partner with the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence in the College of Education and Human Development at GSU to create an interactive map of DLI schools and programs in the nation. By highlighting the lack of availability of DLI programs to the most underserved communities, CULTR and the Crim Center will create data and research to inform action to address the opportunity gap. As an extension of the DLI mapping project, CULTR and the Crim Center will conduct research and create a curriculum around culturally responsive DLI programming and instruction. This will anchor DLI pedagogy and teacher training in (1) what these communities already know, (2) how the students learn best, and (3) practices that address and work through the affordances of DLI theory and pedagogy. This approach will create opportunities for and with students and their communities that allow them to become more purposefully connected to today’s global environment. Through this collaboration with the Crim Center, and with financial support from GSU’s Office of Student Success, an interactive map of available DLI programs will allow CULTR and other researchers to explore the social and institutional structures that impede access among underserved students and families in acquiring the language ability, intercultural competence, and global mindset needed to be competitive in a global marketplace. This project will generate research through articles and conference presentations, as well as pedagogical resources for teachers and advocacy materials for families through the creation of a Family and Community Toolkit and the Family and Community Information Camp. This project may also have policy implications for both state and municipal legislatures as DLI schools are developed, proposed, and approved.
C2:R2 – Developing a computerized assessment battery of pragmatic competence in Chinese as a second language (Dr. Shuai Li)
This multi-year project aims to develop and validate an assessment battery for testing L2 Chinese pragmatics for college students. Pragmatic competence is conceptualized as a multi-faceted construct encompassing pragmalinguistic ability (e.g., speech acts, implicature, routines), sociopragmatic ability (e.g., level of formality), and discursive ability (e.g., opening, turn taking, and closing). The only published study on assessing L2 Chinese pragmatics is one by the researcher which reports on a project funded by the CULTR. Because Li’s study only focused on one specific aspect of pragmatic competence, the proposed project plans to expand the scope of assessment by including additional vital pragmatic constructs (e.g., speech acts, routines, discursive ability) into a computerized assessment battery.
C2:R3 – Goals, Expectations, and Motivations of Collegiate Less Commonly Taught Languages Learners (Dr. Mizuki Mazzotta)
The proposed study aims to fill a research gap by investigating the nature (i.e., needs, interests, attitudes, opinions) of college students in less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) by investigating the goals, expectations, and motivations of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean learners at multiple universities. This mixed-methods study will inform teaching strategies, course designs, and recruitment strategies of the three LCTLs programs.
C2:R4 – Linguascaping the school: A deep mapping project for urban linguistic landscape (Dr. Hakyoon Lee)
This project explores how the concept of Linguistic Landscape (LL) is employed as a pedagogical tool in multilingual school contexts. This is an extension of a CULTR research project funded in 2014. To expand the scope of the project, LL will be applied to the local K-12 schools to investigate how LL promotes learners’ understanding of multilingualism as well as target language in different social contexts. The study will illustrate how the concept of LL is applied to different Korean educational settings, especially in K-12. As the first geolocative language research in K-12 context in the U.S., this project will promote a greater understanding of linguistic dynamics within foreign language education. It may also contribute to FL policy and have considerable impact on the practices and management of bilingual and multilingual education in the U.S.
Project Title: Culturally and Linguistically Relevant STEM Textbook and Workbook Development for a Korean-English Dual Language Immersion (KDLI) Program (Dr. Aram Cho)
Project Description: This research project is part of an effort to examine various perspectives and experiences in the newly established Korean Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program in Suwanee, Georgia. We aim to address a common challenge faced by DLI program teachers who struggle to find appropriate STEM course materials, particularly for less commonly taught languages like Korean, Chinese, or Japanese. Simultaneously, parents and teachers share a common concern, that of preparing students for standardized tests while simultaneously nurturing their comprehension of STEM content in the target language, Korean. To address these challenges, the project proposes developing culturally and linguistically relevant textbooks and workbooks for 3rd-grade science classes in the Korean DLI program. This involves translating existing STEM teaching materials into Korean, organizing them by content units, and creating textbooks and workbooks for STEM and Culture subjects. The project also includes a component where students create an online book as part of this lesson. The outcomes are virtually exchanged with students in an elementary school in Korea. The developed materials will be shared online, and presentations will be held to explain the project and its findings.
R2: The role of prosody in comprehending implied meaning in L2 Chinese (Dr. Shuai Li). The study aims to investigate how people understand hidden meanings in language when they speak a second language, specifically Chinese. Our research analyzes “prosody,” which is the way we speak (like tone and speed and not what we say), to explore how it affects our ability to understand implied meanings. For example, when someone says “Yes?” with a rising tone, it may mean uncertainty, and when they say “Yes!” with a falling tone, it may indicate excitement or confirmation. Although previous studies have looked at other linguistic factors that can express hidden meanings, the role of prosody has not yet been examined.
The research project will focus on two questions: 1. How does different ways of speaking effector our ability to understand implied meaning? and 2. What cognitive processes do we use to understand implied meaning? The study will involve about 80 people who speak Chinese as a second language with intermediate and advanced proficiency. They will take a computerized test to see how well they understand hidden meanings. Some participants will also explain their thought process as they take the test, and these will be recorded and analyzed. The test, once finalized, will be made available online for anyone interested in learning more about the study. We invite all students studying Chinese as a second language, teachers/researchers of Chinese, and everyone with an interest in the Chinese language to try it out. The findings from our study could benefit students and teachers of Chinese wanting to explore the role of implied meaning for their learning and pedagogical purposes.
R4: Languages Across Metro Atlanta (LAMA) project (Dr. Maxim Hiram). Languages Across Metro Atlanta (LAMA) is an inter-institutional collaborative project to document, examine, and analyze the vibrant multilingual and multicultural metropolitan Atlanta area through its linguistic landscape. Generally defined as the use of language in the public sphere, the linguistic landscape offers an approach to explore all the different ways that language is visible and audible in greater Atlanta – from billboards, shop signs, and monuments to menus, clothing, and background music. The underlying premise behind the focus is that these examples of language use are “‘tips of icebergs’ to a deeper and more complex meaning embedded in histories, cultural relations, politics, and humanistic inter-relations” (Shohamy & Waksman, 2009, p. 328). Currently in its infancy, this project looks to engage educators, students, and researchers from across Atlanta in becoming part of a city-wide effort to capture how Atlanta’s multilingualism and multiculturalism manifests itself in the public realm and to document those efforts on a central website.