Language and education were the topics of discussion in Parker Hall this past Friday. Keene State College faculty and students alike met with college professors and local representatives to discuss the many advantages of learning a second language. The event, titled “The Importance of Foreign Language in a Globalized World,” began with presentations by a former Keene Sentinel editor, a representative from the Markem-Imaje Corporation in Keene and KSC professors in the departments of mathematics, Holocaust and genocide studies and anthropology. Following these presentations was a Q&A period, during which audience members offered their opinions and concerns about foreign language in schools and in the workplace.
Symposium Co-chair and Assistant Professor of Education John Sturtz said that one of the reasons for holding this event was to raise discussion about the ever-increasing globalized state of the world. Because modern society is based on the idea of constant communication and in a state of constant change, Sturtz said it is important that students have a wide range of experiences and are able to communicate with many different types of people. “It’s imperative that our students be prepared not only with the dispositions and habits of mind to be able to engage in an increasing global world,” Sturtz said. “To be citizens of the world they have to be able to communicate, and foreign languages teaches more than just the speaking.” Sturtz continued to say that there is a transmission of culture – a humanitarian element – to foreign language that makes other viewpoints seems less different and opens the mind to other ways of thinking.
Event Coordinator and KSC Assistant Professor of Modern Language Rafael Ponce-Cordero also spoke about the ways foreign language can impact everyday thinking, and, more specifically, how these ways of thinking help us grow as a globalized culture.
“The general theme of the symposium is ‘Sustaining the American Dream, Public Education, and the Common Good.’ We believe [foreign language] should be part of that whole discussion…The American Dream has always been about integrating people, and that’s easier to do with a more open, more globally-minded mindset,” Ponce-Cordero said. He continued to say that, even though New England is far away from the centers of immigration in the southwest, the foreign population is still increasing. “The US is currently the second Spanish-speaking country in the world. The only country that has more Spanish speakers is Mexico…So Spain, which is the birthplace of the language, is currently third or fourth in line, and the US is the second. We call it foreign language, but, at least in the case of Spanish, it’s not really foreign,” Ponce-Cordero said.
He continued to discuss how the presence of languages in the US demands a change in view regarding the way these languages are taught. “For example, I’ve heard in Boston if you want to be a nurse, they recommend you take Spanish because many people speak Spanish and many of the people you will help speak Spanish,” he said. KSC First-year and Health Science Major Maddie Chearze was among those who attended the event. She said she is currently in a sociology class that focuses on globalization, and that she attended because she was curious about how early education impacts social relations. She also said that she advocates for teaching foreign language in public elementary schools. “It’s easier to learn [foreign language] when younger, so it would help a lot of us if it was taught in public school systems,” Chearze said. Event Coordinator Ponce-Cordero said that this was one of the meanings of hosting the event from multiple perspectives: getting others to think about education differently. He said, “This is trying to appeal to or talk about the common good and public education and the present and the future of Keene, Keene State College, the US and the world.”
Max Blanchette can be contacted email@example.com