Friday, June 7, 2013

Lingua Franca ~ A Unifying Language

After spending time working in, living in and experiencing Slovakia, Mark Lencho, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and his wife, Betsy, a teacher at the School District of Janesville, have a desire to open communications between and create a partnership with Slovakian schools and the School District of Janesville. They view this partnership as strategic and beneficial for both school systems involved. 

The Lenchos see one primary focus of such a partnership being the study of language. In Slovakia, elementary school students are taught in Slovak, as well as two other foreign languages. This type of program not only exposes students to foreign languages at an early age, but also immerses them in the language. Language education continues to be an emphasis throughout the child’s schooling, and each high school graduate must be proficient in both English and one other foreign language. Exposing our students to this polylingual mindset has potential to expand their views on studying and immersing themselves in a foreign language, increase their global competency and marketability and help them become a more active global citizen. 

Slovakian high schools follow in line with many other European schools, where they utilize fast tracking. This means that when students enter high school, they will already begin training for a particular occupation. One of the two high schools that Mark and Betsy have connected with has a Spanish emphasis, where students receive their education in Spanish, building fluent speakers. Partnering with this school would provide a unique opportunity for School District of Janesville (SDJ) students. Typically, when forming a language
learning partnership, one person is a native speaker and the other is a language learner. This creates an interesting dichotomy because of the deep connection that language has to our emotions, ideas and understanding, and ability to express these thoughts and feelings. By utilizing Spanish as a lingua franca, a unifying language, SDJ and Slovakian students would be navigating language alongside one another. Spanish would provide a medium for growth in learning to communicate cross culturally. Students would be challenged to develop the ability to communicate ideas in a variety of ways, so that their language counterparts would be able to understand. This type of opportunity would challenge and stretch our students linguistically, while exposing them to a polylingual mindset. 
Although foreign exchange programs could be utilized to maximize the experience, there is potential to simply use technology. Students would be able to do a cultural exchange via the Internet.
Currently, this concept is in the beginning stages; however, it is being explored as an option for our students. The SDJ staff desire that our students would be provided an excellent, well-rounded, global education that strengthens them for their future. 

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