Spring 2014


Let's Talk: Low-Enrollment, High Prestige Languages

Language education is essential to a well-rounded education since it prepares students to live and work in our multilingual world. As Dean John McGreevy has said: “We believe that the distinguished alumni of the future, the citizens that can really make a difference in the world, are not going to be monolingual; they're going to have some serious capacity to read, write, and think in a language beyond English.” Despite this enthusiasm, which Dean McGreevy shares with Notre Dame professors and U.S. government officials, language enrollment numbers at Notre Dame are either stagnant or dropping. Even more concerning is the fact that the programs reporting the most significant declines are among the most widely spoken languages in the world. For example, Arabic and Russian are respectively the fifth and sixth most spoken languages; yet student enrollment in the AY 2012-2013 is almost half of what it was in AY 2008-2009. 

“Let’s Talk: Low-Enrollment, High-Prestige Languages” seeks to address this discrepancy between such languages’ enrollment numbers and global significance. Why are Notre Dame students not seeking to learn languages that are clearly important to contemporary society? How can language programs improve their enrollment numbers, engage student interest, and increase linguistic and cultural competency? How does the current research and scholarship in the field of language acquisition deal with such issues? Do co-synchronous, co-located courses, flipped classrooms, or hybrid courses have a quantifiable impact on student ability and production? What results have peer institutions reported as the result of innovations in second language instruction, and how can Notre Dame and other institutions learn from them? In what ways can the ever-evolving technology of today help create and retain student interest? How can language centers, such as Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CSLC), work with individual language programs to increase the visibility of these languages on Notre Dame’s campus? How can language programs work with other departments in the social sciences, humanities, and hard sciences to produce the global citizens Notre Dame should be producing? How can we shift students’ understanding of language classes from a requirement to graduate to a requirement for a successful career?

This symposium brings three distinguished keynote speakers to campus to share their research and scholarship on second language acquisition conducted at Yale, Columbia, and Kennesaw State with Notre Dame faculty and staff as well as conference delegates. The addresses and conversations presented at this symposium are designed to inform the practice of language teaching by highlighting the latest research and scholarship in the field. “Let’s Talk: Low-Enrollment, High-Prestige Languages,” which will be heavily promoted in the Midwest, seeks to permit local scholars and practitioners to interact with international leaders in the field of language learning and initiate a conversation about language acquisition on and around the Notre Dame campus that will continue long after the symposium is over. In particular, the CSLC wants to bring language faculty, staff, and graduate students together to learn more about how it, as Notre Dame’s language center, can help high-prestige languages achieve greater visibility on the Notre Dame campus. Ultimately, this symposium helps the CSLC enact its goal of advancing, promoting, and disseminating top notch research in second language acquisition. It also begins the process of branding Notre Dame as a place where not only language pedagogy is taken seriously, but research and scholarship on second language teaching is generated, embraced, and shared.

Keynote Speakers


Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl is Associate Dean of Yale College and Director of the Center for Language Study at Yale University. Her research interests focus on applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, heritage language learning, and technology-enhanced foreign language teaching and learning. Her most recent publications include “Research on heritage language issues” (in Handbook of Heritage, Community, and Native American Languages in the United States: Research, Educational Practice, and Policy, Routledge, 2014) and “Online Discourse Strategies: A longitudinal study of computer-mediated foreign language learning” (in Mediating Discourse Online, edited by Sally Sieloff Magnan; John Benjamins, 2008).


Stéphane Charitos completed a Ph.D. in French and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1996, he was hired by Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton to design and administer the university's new Foreign Language Media Center. Subsequently, he was recruited by Columbia University to conceive, build, and direct the Language Resource Center. He has given papers and published in areas as diverse as 16th and 20th-century French and Francophone literature, Cultural and Film Studies, Modern Greek Studies, Critical Theory as well as on issues related to technology, globalization, and language instruction.


Lance R. Askildson is the Chief International Officer and Executive Director of the Institute for Global Initiatives as well as Associate Professor of English Language & Linguistics at Kennesaw State University. He is also the former Director of Notre Dame’s CSLC. He publishes and researches in the fields of program assessment, language learning technology, and language acquisition in study abroad immersion.


April 1

McKenna Hall 100-104

5.00pm: Session 1
Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl (Yale University)
“Innovative Trends in Language Education: New Directions for LCTLs”
Chair: Brian Ó Conchubhair

6:15pm - 715pm: Reception in the Morris Inn

April 2

McKenna Hall 100-104

8:00am: Coffee/Tea

9.00am: Session 2
Lance Askildson (Kennesaw State University)
“The Secret of Getting Things Done is to [Inter] Act: Communicative Design for Less Commonly Taught Language Classes”
Chair: Stew Markel

10:00am: Coffee/Tea

10:30am: Session 3: 
Lori Crawford-Dixon (Holy Cross College), “Oral Competency in ‘New Spaces’: Risk-taking and Interpersonal Performance”
Chair: Justin Watson

Yongping Zhu (Notre Dame), “Perfecting Peer-Tutoring Planning at Notre Dame”
Chair: Matt Getze

Virginie Askildson (Kennesaw State University), “The Technological Imperative For Less Commonly Taught Languages: Addressing Teacher Challenges”
Chair: David Gasperetti

12:00pm - 1:30pm: Lunch

1:30pm: Session 4
Stéphane Charitos (Columbia University)
“Caring Means Sharing: The Shared Course Initiative and Language Instruction”
Chair: Denise Ayo

2:30pm: Q&A: New Directions for Language Acquisition at Notre Dame
Chair: Matt Getze