ACTFL, here I come!

This year Ken Carroll and I will be representing Praxis Language at the ACTFL 2008 Convention in Orlando, Florida.

I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the brightest and most passionate language educators that my country has to offer. If you will be in attendance and would like to meet up, by all means, send me an e-mail.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. John,

    Would you find a way to suggest to the ACTFL that it is imperative that language training in the US needs to change. An example would be to take all high school language programs, dismantle them(yes, this would make teacher unions angry-they need a fire under their southern exposure) and put money towards Kindergarten thru 3rd grade language immersion programs. Then, if American’s ever realizes that to be a part of the world, we need to be able to communicate with the world, the language programs can grow from 3rd grade up.

    An opinion I wish educators would seriously consider.

  2. Agree with Daniel’s above comment. I’m normally against reactionary “BURN IT TO THE GROUND” voices on any subject, but language learning in American elementary/high schools is just… I don’t even know what to say. I don’t think anything sort of a revolution is going to fix it.

  3. I agree that the schools really should improve their programs. There is an immersion school in Charlotte, but that’s only one school among many schools in the city, and you can only get in by lottery, plus the fact that it’s just too far away and parents don’t realize that soon that their children need this unless the parents themselves aren’t both American and are simply trying to carry on their culture in the US.

    They teach some Spanish in elementary school, but that’s only one language. What about children who want to learn Chinese? They don’t offer that until high school, and they didn’t even offer it when I was in high school! The Spanish in elementary school was also very basic, and you didn’t really have to get anything out of it. The only things I got out of elementary Spanish were really basic. It wasn’t until middle school that they started sticking us with conjugations, and then it was like, “Where did that come from?!”

    Then, when my dad finally decided I had a gift for languages after I finished 5 years of Spanish in 3 years of high school, he decided I needed to learn Chinese. Not a moment before that! If I had been allowed the chance to learn to read, write, speak, and understand Chinese in elementary school, I might have learned faster. Don’t people say that you learn faster before you reach 10 years of age? They really waste that time when it comes to foreign language-learning!

  4. John,

    Are you presenting? What day/time? I couldn’t find Praxis in the conference program.


    Caryn Louie

  5. I don’t know about necessarily burning it to the ground, but some changes are in order. As it is now, too many things decide whether or not the language program in US high schools accomplishes much of anything aside from meeting a graduation requirement and generic exposure: school location, teacher competence, student desire and work ethic.

    For example… I went to high school in FL. I studied French for 3 years. In the end, I could pick up a random text written in French and read it competently. However, I couldn’t really speak/understand very well. Meanwhile, my brother and a couple of friends took Spanish. To this day, they speak Spanish w/out a hitch. Being in FL, they have always had ample opportunity to practice speaking Spanish whether for fun or necessity.

  6. Planning on attending in 2010?

  7. Daniel,

    Clearly, American foreign language teaching has problems, but I’ll try to represent more of a “the positive influence of the internet” angle rather than a nihilist kind of angle. 🙂

  8. Caryn,

    No, not presenting this year. This year we’ll be getting our bearings and observing, and hopefully meeting some interesting people.

  9. Tim P,

    2010? Don’t know yet. I’d like to go in 2009, 2010, and 2011, if possible! (Maybe I should see how this first one goes, though.)

  10. He Dainian Says: November 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm


    Although I agree that the American education system needs many improvements, be assured that experts around the States recognize this fact. These problems, however, can not be resolved by simply “dismantling the system.” How do you pick what languages that the high schools will focus on? (I would choose Chinese and Spanish, yet my opinion is probably a bit biased) How do those students located in areas with smaller ethnic populations continue their studies outside of the classroom? What role should culture study play into language study? These are questions that all innovators in the field of language education are focusing on.

    The second question is one of the strengths of the services provided by Praxis Languages. Right now, my university is planning to use this service to give local high school students the chance to take their study “outside of the classroom.” It is truly an excellent opportunity.

    On another note, I would be interested to see how ChinesePod views the ACTFL guidelines for language study. Although it matches up in many areas, some it does not (i.e. beginner topics on ChinesePod do not always correlate with ACTFL novice topics).

  11. Most American schools are doing a pretty poor job of teaching English. (Or you could also say most American students are doing a pretty poor job of learning English. It takes two to tango.) Thus improvements to foreign language curricula are likely to take a back seat in the minds of administrators, regardless of what the ACTFL thinks.

    Thankfully the Internet and services such as ChinesePod are making it much easier for students who actually have an interest in learning a foreign language to take their learning into their own hands. After all, motivation is the number one determinant of success at a foreign language, so no matter what the pedagogy students with no interest in foreign language (i.e. the majority of high school students) are unlikely to be successful at it.

  12. Hi John,
    This is Rui, who’s so surprised and happy to see you at the same conference room at ACTFL and then later refused to offer you a seat beside her! 🙂 I’m kinda embarrassed and felt silly when I did that, I could’ve asked my friends to move inwards a seat and let you sit with us! I guess when I’m talking on the phone, I tend to be very focused only on the invisible person. Again i’m sorry.
    It was my first time to ACTFL conference and it was a great learning experience. I’m looking forward to the next meeting in SD 2009!
    Are you spending thanksgiving at home? If yes, have a great holiday then!

  13. Rui,

    Don’t worry about it; we were all there for the presentation. No big deal. 🙂

    I spent my Thanksgiving in Shanghai, but thanks!

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