Is your language program under the threat of closure?A few strategies to rebuild program
by Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD.
Are enrollments in your second or foreign language program dropping? Is your program under the threat of closure due to low registrations? Here are some strategies that may help.Saving a language program from closure takes a dedication and strategic planning. The best thing you cando for any educational program that gets a failing grade when it comes to its own sustainability is createpositive buzz about it. Get people excited about the impact that learning a language can have! Or at thevery least, catch their attention. Here are a few ideas:
1. Every semester plan second or foreign language events.
Events are important. Think about it. School sports tournaments generate interest in physical activity.Science fairs generate interest in science and math. Performances and recitals highlight the importance of dance and music. Events generate buzz and may even get media coverage.Events can include:
Native Speakers’ Day
– Bring in native speakers who are successful and could be considered rolemodels to come into the school to give presentations on their work, their life, their travels, theirculture or whatever inspires them. Get bios for each speaker and have students prepare questionsto ask them.
Second Language Speech Competition
– Bring in “celebrity” judges from your local communitywho speak the target language (politicians eat this stuff up and we’ve had good success gettingboth local,
provincial support and even embassy support for speech competitions).
Cultural celebration day
– Have students showcase their work through videos, poster presentationsand demonstrations. They can prepare food, perform a dance (or better yet, give a short danceclass) or have a sing-along. Make the students who are currently enrolled in the program the focusof the entire day. Invite parents and community stake-holders to observe, drop by and share in thecelebration. Having a local “celebrity” native speaker to offer opening and closing remarks oremcee the day is a huge boost.The idea behind all of these is to get involvement from people in the community. This not only generatesinterest, when we get outsiders involved, it also builds credibility and legitimacy. These events take a hugeamount of organization and they are absolutely worth it.2. Communicate the importance of languageswith passion. For all of the above, work with your schoolsecretary, principles and district communications ofﬁce to send out press releases. I guarantee you that if your events get media coverage, you will generate interest. There is an art to writing press releases, andoften school districts have strict protocols around communications, so working with your admin team anddistrict is not only helpful, it is essential.
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