ETS - Aug 2011

Bilingualism on Steep Rise in U.S.

fig-1While a record 64.7 million people ages five and older in the U.S. spoke a language other than English at home in 2015, a growing share of them are also fully proficient in English. According to analysis of census data by the Migration Policy Institute, “an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think-tank dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide,” 60% of those speaking a foreign language at home were fully proficient in English in 2015, up from 56% in 1980—even as immigration levels rose significantly.

The population of immigrants and U.S. natives speaking a language other than English at home—which represents about one in five U.S. residents—has nearly tripled since 1980 when it stood at 23.1 million.

Most English-Learner Children Born in U.S.

fig-2The analysis found that the vast majority of English-language learners (ELLs) in U.S. K-12 schools during 2015 were born in the U.S. with 82% of prekindergarten to 5th grade English-learners and 65% of 6th and 12th grade English-learners being U.S.-born, whereas the foreign-born general population was much more likely to have limited English proficiency than the U.S.-born population. In 2015, approximately 49% of immigrants (21 million) were Limited English Proficient (LEP), compared to 2% of the U.S.-born population.

Overall, the analysis found that more than half of U.S. residents who spoke a foreign language in 2015 were also English-proficient.

To read the full report, visit

December 9th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Malaysian DJ Spins Sabeh

2016-11-29t003045z_1666218572_rc157f06f200_rtrmadp_3_malaysia-landrights-musicAtama Katama, a Malaysian DJ who has been spinning dance music across Malaysia for the past 15 years, has recently turned his attention towards indigenous issues and language. Katama, who has been playing dance music through the 1990’s at hip hop clubs, told Reuters that his curiosity was piqued when a fellow DJ asked about his indigenous roots in Sabeh. Katama is the son of Ambrose Mudi, a Sabeh singer-songwriter, says he took inspiration from the instruments that his father would play, and that he grew up around. continue reading

November 30th, 2016 | Leave your comments

A Star Talks

Silhouette of Telescope.Laura Murray explains to Mary Thrond and Daniel Ward how her fascination with Chinese culture and history led to a lifetime of achievement and adventure, including the creation of the STARTALK program, which has acted as a catalyst for advanced language acquisition in the U.S. Since 2006, STARTALK has provided learning opportunities in critical languages for students (K–16) and professional development for teachers of critical languages, primarily through summer programs. Currently, programs are being implemented in Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.

continue reading

November 21st, 2016 | Leave your comments

November 2016 Out Now!

nov16-coverHoning Heritage Learners: Maria M. Carreira offers a framework and supporting strategies for

teaching mixed classes

Strengthening Oral Proficiency with RICH: Ligia Martinez offers a strategy for Heritage Speakers

Breaking the Comprehension Barrier: Felicia Rateliff and Brian Pitts report on the technology a Texas school district is using to solve ELL reading barrier issues

Viva España: Daniel Ward argues that economically there’s never been a better time to study in Spain

Intercultural Mediation: Ian Akhbar stresses the importance of appropriate cultural education

First Aid: Volunteering for mutual benefit 

November 14th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Ukraine Drops Russian

At last month’s summit in Berlin, the Ukrainian, Russian, German, and French leaders agreed to draw up a roadmap for applying the frayed 2015 Minsk peace accords following months of impasse, but the ongoing conflict continues to have language repercussions.

The Ukrainian government’s announcement that railway stations will soon have signs in Ukrainian and English but not in Russian shows Ukrainian is becoming the “de facto” official language of the country, according to Dr. Volodymyr Viatrovych, director of Kyiv’s Institute of National Remembrance. In a commentary on the Apostrophe portal, Viatrovych says that Ukrainian is the only state language in Ukraine and that “there are no people in Ukraine who do not understand [it]” ( As for the use of English, he argues that it is “testimony to the openness of Ukraine to the world, because it is one of the main world languages” and is a way to make Ukraine closer to Europe. Viatrovych believes that dropping Russian is a way to overcome “the Soviet-imperial heritage,” so Russian place names need to be updated with Ukrainian alternatives. “If someone very much likes Russian toponymy, Russian culture, Russian language, and Russian history, then it is obvious that for such people there is their own state—Russia,” he comments. But Ukrainians have the right in their state to promote Ukrainian rather than Russian. He adds that now there is “no chance” that Russian will ever be an official language of Ukraine. Ukrainian airports will no longer use Russian and “communist” names, according to Ukraine’s minister for infrastructure, Vladimir Omelyan. He noted that all the information at Ukrainian airports (via loudspeakers and on electronic displays and signs) should be delivered in Ukrainian and English. “We should not have it in Russian. This is not a matter of the use of the state language—this is also a question of self-esteem in the first place. Similarly, airport employees should communicate with passengers in either the Ukrainian or the English language,” Omelyan said.

November 10th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Californians Can Now Choose Language of Education

Group of Elementary Pupils In ClassroomWith the passage of Proposition 58, California, parents and teachers will soon be able to decide the on the blend of languages in which to best educate children. “As president of Californians Together and a school board member, I am thrilled that the electorate sees being bilingual as an asset, and we will work with policy makers and school districts to make this a reality for California’s students,” said Xilonin Cruz Gonzalez. continue reading

November 9th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Soccer Stars Use Language as Their Secret Weapon


Yannick Bolaise and Romelu Lukaku. Photo Courtesy of the Liverpool Echo

Yannick Bolaise and Romelu Lukaku have a surprise up their sleeves that helps aid in their soccer success and it has nothing to do with fancy footwork. The two Everton forwards speak a dialect of the Republic of Congo called Lingala. Lukaku is a Belgian international of Congolese descent while Bolaise is a DR Congo international who both speak the dialect.

Bolaise told the Liverpool Echo, “We speak Lingala on the pitch. There aren’t too many defenders in the league who speak it, so that gives us a little bit of an advantage. It’s particularly useful because it’s quick.”

Lingala is a Bantu language—a traditional branch of the Niger-Congo language—spoken throughout the northwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a large part of the Republic of the Congo, Angola, and the Central African Republic. While the language has over ten million speakers, Bolaise and Lukaku are in the minority of Lingala speakers on the field, so their shared dialect is able to be spoken around their opponents without them understanding. These players understand the perks of bilingualism!

November 8th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Citizens of the World

thinkstockphotos-503303662-copyBeth Marshall believes that awareness of global citizenry is the true goal of language education

“Why would you want to be a teacher?”

is a question I’m asked often when I say I teach high school French. Many adults can’t fathom the idea of standing in front of 30 or more hormonal teenagers every day. It’s also a question I ask myself particularly often during those last long weeks of the school year in May, during those final exams and standardized tests. I definitely know the overall purpose of my French class is not for them to have memorized the verb “to be” in nine tenses by the end of the year, to be able to list the capitals and countries of the francophone world, or to identify all the colors. It’s much more than that.

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November 7th, 2016 | 1 Comment

The Donald or the Deep Blue Sea

thinkstockphotos-503860814As this year’s presidential election approaches, the choice that Americans will make for the future of this country has become clear—it’s between a nation that embraces the reality of globalization and one that will stubbornly, and vainly, attempt to blockade itself against the inexorable development of international trade and the increased movement of goods and people.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, is in favor of developing international trade—her pledge to veto the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) in its current form is based on that agreement’s shortcomings, not its principles— and she supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, summed up his position on globalization as “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.” He calls the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) the “worst deal ever” and promises to bring thousands of outsourced jobs back to America. He has also vowed to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, block asylum seekers, and build a “beautiful” border wall with pesos donated by Mexico.

Trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP have many flaws, and it is true that America has lost many of its lower-paying jobs to other less economically developed countries, but the only way to bring those jobs back would be to dramatically reduce wages in the U.S., which would exacerbate the nation’s economic divide. Increasing investment in education to close the achievement gap so that more Americans qualify for high-paying jobs is the pragmatic solution to the outsourcing of jobs overseas.

Europe is also being challenged by the consequences of globalization. Ultranationalist political parties have been successful in Austria, Hungary, and Poland, and the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union (EU) was won by stoking fear among the British population that immigrants were taking over the country, ignoring the fact that the formation of the EU, the world’s most successful free-trade association, and its predecessors signaled the end of hundreds of years of wars between European nations.

The U.S. has been instrumental in the construction of the international institutions and alliances, that, since the Second World War, have resulted in the greatest poverty reduction in history. Of course, we still have wars and poverty and now feel threatened by nongovernmental terrorism, but isolationist policy will do little to cushion us from these problems.

The reality is that globalization will continue, whatever individual governments do to try to stop it. The communications revolution will be as world-changing as the industrial revolution was, and, in the same way that the British Luddites failed to destroy the machines that were brought in to do their jobs, attempts to halt globalization will fail. Economies are so intertwined that isolationism is not an option. The way forward is to accept the internationalization of our world and to devise policies that spread the benefits of globalization more widely, while minimizing its consequences on the environment. Secretary Clinton has the pragmatism to recognize this, to negotiate mutually beneficial international agreements, and to provide the educational resources necessary for Americans to be successful in the global economy.

November 5th, 2016 | Leave your comments

Californians, Vote Yes on 58

October 14th, 2016 | Leave your comments

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Quick Links

The World As We Speak

Texas Introduces House Bill to adopt Seal of Bilingualism and Biliteracy
If approved, seal could appear on diplomas as early as the 2013-2014 school year

Brazilian Literature Goes Global
Reading Brazil Digitally and in Translation.

NY Becomes 2nd State to Recognize Biliterate Grads

Feds Face Foreign Language Crisis
Senate hearing discussed how the lack of adequately trained language specialists compromises national security.

State Dept Chooses Kindle for Worldwide English
In an effort to promote English literacy around the world, the U.S. Department of State is planning to purchase up to 35,000 Kindle e-readers as well as selected content. The Kindles would be distributed to U.S.-friendly educational centers around the world so as to be available to those looking to study English and learn about America.

Need for Bilingual Preschools
A new report from the Center for American Progress that urges policymakers to maximize on the investments being made in public preschool programs to serve disadvantaged children. Specifically, the report calls for "more federal, state, and local capacity to meet the increasing demand for culturally and linguistically appropriate services for children who are dual-language learners."

Tensions in Kyrgyzstan over Exams in Uzbek
Nationalists protest the availability of university entrance exams in the Uzbek language.

Linguistic Diversity Linked to Biodiversity
Linguistic and cultural preservation may be the key to protecting biodiversity.

English Proficiency Biggest Hurdle for Brazilian Scholars
At a time when Brazilians have more resources and opportunities to study abroad than ever, lacking language skills a hinderance.

Cajoling All Teachers to Consider ELLs
New report examines how to prepare teachers for the fastest growing student population in the U.S.

Language Education Cuts Compromise National Security
New Council on Foreign Relations report calls education a national security issue

Canada Instates Language Tests for Some Immigrants
Exams on proficiency in either English or French will be stated for certain immigrants in June

San Jose School Hosts Spanish Spelling Bee
First Spanish spelling bee in northern California held at a dual language academy

English is Number One Language Test in Georgia
Students in final year of school aim to take English instead of Russian in foreign language exam

Promotion of French Language is Hot Topic
The separatist opposition party in Quebec rallys for French

U.S. Demand for Portuguese Increasing
Universities scramble to keep up with influx of learners

Urdu Gets Official Status Around India
Urdu to become a language of instruction in Muslim communities

Norwegian Language Camp to be Launched
Camp will focus on Norwegian language and cultural immersion activities

National Center for Family Literacy Ruminates on Education Policy at Conference
Conference of educators, advocates, and policy makers highlights family literacy

New Arabic Center Symbolizes Chinese-Emirati Exchange
Beijing's University of Foreign Studies unveils remodeled center for Arabic language and Islamic studies.

Promoting French in Pakistan
After an exodus of native French teachers, France pushes its language and culture in Pakistan.

Columbia’s Teacher College Addresses International Education with TEDx
Inaugural TEDx conference on international education takes places

Irish Language on the Rise, but not in Ireland
Could heritage learners abroad save Irish?

Santorum: Puerto Ricans Should Learn English
While visiting Puerto Rico, Santorum turns off Boricua voters.

International Summit on Teaching Profession Takes Place in New York
Delegations from 23 countries and regions discuss education issues at the second annual summit

Journey to Find Indigenous Languages in Trip of the Tongue
New book by Elizabeth Little covers indigenous languages throughout the United States

International Portuguese educators come together to teach Timorese teachers

Read Across America Kicks Off March 2
Students all over the U.S. will celebrate literacy on Dr. Seuss's birthday

Equatorial Guinea Strengthens Connection to Portuguese
Portuguese linguists to document archaic dialect from the Annobón province.

To read from The World As We Speak Archive, click here.

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