Students Learning Languages Gain More Options

November 3, 2017: Volume 24, Number 22

Schools and providers of educational materials are looking to new options for learning foreign languages as students are being educated to work in a global economy. More technology is being used to instruct students in a range of languages.

EMC School (St. Paul, MN) in October began bundling i-Culture immersion tools with its Spanish, French and German ebooks. Launched in 2011, i-Culture was previously offered either separately, requiring a unique sign-on, or as an integrated part of Passport, EMC’s proprietary world language learning environment.

With content updated on a regular basis, i-Culture offers an immersive experience into Spanish, French and German culture through news articles, brief documentary videos and modern and traditional songs.

“Creating opportunities for students to gain a greater understanding of a culture is imperative to success in the world language classroom,” said Mick Demakos, division president at EMC School. i-Culture content is procured from the country where the language is spoken and is updated weekly. Teachers have access to materials adapted for classroom learning to accompany daily lessons or longer-term projects.

Demakos told EER that the market for world language materials is changing as schools want blended learning solutions with significant digital components. Cloud-based programs are providing easier access and breaking down the barriers to using technology, he said.

Five years ago, EMC’s business was almost 100% print and the company still sells large numbers of print books. Now EMC bundles digital components with every sale, even if they are not requested, to help schools make the digital transition.

The introduction of programs like iCulture and the digital learning environment Passport have driven growth at EMC School, where revenue was up 25% each year in 2014 and 2015 and up 60% in 2016. Demakos estimated the total U.S. market for high school foreign language instructional materials at $150 million annually, with Spanish resources accounting for about 70% of high school foreign language sales.

EMC offers full programs for the four languages U.S. high school students most often study: Spanish, French, German and Chinese. A program for Italian is being introduced this year, initially books and ebooks with integration with Passport next year. EMC has partnered on a Japanese instruction program, but is looking to produce a program of its own. Additionally, the company will look at Latin and American Sign Language, hearing interest in those areas.

Feedback from customers drives product innovation at EMC. The company is investing in elementary programs as schools introduce language study earlier. A new assignment feature to be introduced shortly comes in response to educators who are creating their own content and want to upload and assign it within the EMC platform.

EMC also is building out its service arm, providing access to learning solution specialists who have experience as language teachers and can help educators use programs to maximum effectiveness.

Rosetta Stone Offers Another Example

Rosetta Stone (Herndon, VA) is working with the Rankin (MS) school district to provide students in 17 of Rankin’s 28 elementary, middle and high schools with access to a digital language learning program intended to help them develop reading, writing and speaking world language skills at an accelerated pace.

“Rankin County School District has always strived to provide our 19,500 students with the tools they need to compete at the global level, and this includes the incorporation of foreign language opportunities throughout the district,” said superintendent Sue Townsend.

The district selected Rosetta Stone after identifying students’ conversational language fluency as an area that could be improved on and after researching several foreign language options. Language teachers were then invited to evaluate the platform to determine efficacy.

RCSD students taking a world language course this year have the opportunity to utilize the approved platform. Students in grades 5, 6 and 8 study Spanish; seventh graders are offered a sampling of Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Italian and German; and high school students can choose between Spanish and French in select schools.

“When we began working with Rankin County, one of their primary requests was to have the program accessible to students outside of the classroom so they could continue to work on their language skills anytime,” said Matt Hall, vice president, Enterprise & Education, Rosetta Stone.

Rosetta Stone is being used as a flexible supplement to regular classroom instruction: Students spend 40-60 minutes per week using the program with the assistance of language teacher in a classroom setting.

Because the program is cloud-based, students can learn and practice using their laptop, smartphone or tablet. Helping to make that possible is the district’s 1:1 initiative, in which students in grades 7-12 receive a Mac Book Air.

Variety in Alabama

Alabama’s call for world language materials that will be adopted by schools in the state in spring 2017 for use in classrooms in the fall attracted nine publishers who submitted comprehensive programs in Chinese, French, Latin and Spanish. The state Board of Education will make recommendations on the submitted products at its Dec. 14 meeting.



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