2010 President's Report

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How can we prepare young people to become global citizens? When it comes to global conversations, Spartans want 		them in Every Language.

Michigan State University Spartans don’t just participate in global conversations—they help make them possible.

Take, for example, MSU’s Community Language School, where faculty and students—both undergraduate and graduate—help children in Lansing-area communities learn to read, write, and speak in a number of world languages, from Arabic to Urdu.

While educators and the government tout the importance of learning other languages as vital to U.S. competitiveness, schools often lack the resources to offer languages—especially those that are less commonly taught.

“With state budget cuts, one of the first things to go in schools is arts and language programs,” says Angelika Kraemer, director of the Community Language School and outreach coordinator for MSU’s Center for Language Teaching and Advancement (CeLTA). “At MSU, we have the means to reach out to the community and bridge the gaps.”

The Community Language School has reached more than 1,300 community members ranging in age from 3 to 18 since it officially launched in 2008 as part of CeLTA in MSU’s College of Arts and Letters. Since that time, more than 200 MSU students have participated in service-learning experiences by volunteering their time to work with young students from the community.

“The lead teachers in our language classes are always native speakers—either faculty or community members,” says Kraemer. “Alongside them, graduate and undergraduate students are getting valuable experience working with students and learning classroom management and lesson planning.”

Program offerings include weekly language classes, summer language camps for children and teens, immersion workshops for teachers, introductory programs at area schools, and monthly cultural events on campus. In addition to more commonly taught European languages, the school also offers classes in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Hindi and Urdu.

“MSU is a leader in study abroad, and we have such a large international student community here,” says Kraemer. “It’s really a match made in heaven to have this program at MSU.”

Research shows learning new languages can bring a range of benefits, including improved memory retention and higher scores on standardized tests. And knowing more than one language doesn’t just broaden horizons; it can open doors to expanded job opportunities later in life.

“Usually it’s assumed that English is the main language of business, but there are so many international companies, and even the military, that are looking for people who can not only communicate in another language but who also understand other customs and cultures,” says Kraemer. “It’s important that we prepare this next generation of students and workers.”

By helping children become better-prepared global citizens, MSU is planting the seeds for their future and tomorrow’s progress. You could say it’s just another way that Spartans are giving voice to change.