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14th International Festival of Language and Cultures Southwest USA

 

Mission/Vision Statement

The mission of the International Languages and Cultures Southwestern States in America is to contribute to linguistic and cultural diversity of the United States by encouraging and motivating students in secondary schools and colleges as well as adult learners to showcase their knowledge and skills. It is our mission to rise on the wings of art and music and promote peace, love, and cultural encounters through the world. The vision of the festival is to unite nations of the world with universal human values.

About the Program

At a time when one might feel discouraged, distressed or hopeless amid news of violence, conflict and war, the International Festival of Language and Culture (IFLC) sprouts seeds of hope, in celebration of rich diversity and intercultural dialogue, with its 14th annual language and culture festival, “Colors of the World.”

The IFLC has been hosting its language and culture festival for the past 13 years, showcasing both the rich multicultural diversity of our world, as well as the boundless talent of our youth. The IFLC draws participants from over 160 countries across the globe, with over 1000 student performers each year at numerous regional events worldwide, and in its 15th year, Houston, TX will be one of many cities co-hosting this international event.

The IFLC expects to draw more than 100 young performers from over 12 countries to this year’s festival in Houston, TX, “Colors of the World”, to exhibit their cultural traditions through poetry, song and dance, in an expression of friendship, and hope for the future.

We encourage you to save the date for this inspirational festival of cultural expression to be held on Saturday, February 6th, 2016 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 pm. at the Hobby Center at Sarofim Hall in Houston, TX.

Raindrop Foundation has organized the International Cultures and Languages Olympiad in Texas since 2007. This year’s program will host performers from not only from six states: Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arkansas in United States and also from countries like France, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Senegal, India, Bangladesh, Mexico and many more. Performers will show their talents in singing, poetry, and folk dance.

Rationale

The United States of America is proud to be among the most diverse cultures in the world. One in every three Americans is considered a minority (Humes, Jones & Ramirez, 2011). USA is also increasing diversity through new immigrants. In 2013, nearly 1.8 million people became US citizens or permanent residents (Lee & Foreman, 2014; Monger & Yankay, 2014).. According to 2010 census, 20.6% of the population five years or over speak a language other than English in their homes. This is about one in every five Americans. However, according to Gallup survey in 2001, one in every four Americans can hold a conversation in a second language (McComb, 2001). These two statistics reveal that about 5% of the Americans other than the heritage speakers can hold a conversation in a second language. This contradicts the evident importance of foreign languages for the country. The teaching of foreign languages did not flourish in the USA until World War II. The Army Specialized Training Program was initiated in 1942 to meet the need for Americans who can speak other languages during the war. Another important significant point was the National Defense Education Act signed in 1958 following the launch of Sputnik by the Russians and the act provided support for the study of foreign languages (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). The current level of language learning has not progressed well, as evident from statistics.

Teaching of foreign languages was important in 1950’s, but is it not now? Speaking at the Foreign Language Summit in 2010, then CIA director, Former Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta said, “For the United States to get to where it needs to be will require a national commitment to strengthening America’s foreign language proficiency” and he added that language skills are “fundamental to US competitiveness and security” (cia.gov). 

Speaking at the same summit, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan expressed, “Americans need to read, speak and understand other languages …only 18% of Americans report speaking a language other than English” as opposed to 53% of Europeans (Skorton & Altschuler, 2012). Skorton and Altschuler (2012) emphasize that it is essential for Americans in different fields to speak less commonly taught languages. In 2006, National Security Language Initiative was formed in collaboration with U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education and the National Security Agency. The program currently offers support in seven critical languages including Turkish (nsliforyouth.org). Critical
Language Scholarship also provides support for 13 critical languages including Turkish (clscholarship.org). The importance of learning foreign languages has always been important for America, and yet the level of learning a foreign language has not been high as statistics reveal. It is important to provide support for programs that motivate students to learn critical languages.

Linguistic diversity is not at the level of ethnic diversity. According to 2010 census, one in every three American is a minority. Since language and culture are inseparable (Jiang, 2000), it is important to emphasize language to preserve and increase diversity in every aspect. This is also related to the idea that language and though are interwoven.  American linguist Lee Whorf (1956 [1940]: 214) says that “all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar.” According to Whorf, people who can speak different languages could see and interpret things differently while looking at the same things. Having linguistic diversity is an asset as it will bring different ways of thinking to the country. Boroditsky (2001) ran some experiments and found that people who are trained in another language conceptualize things like time differently than other native speakers of their first language who are not trained in that second language. Knowing a second language provides the ability to think differently. Likewise, Kuruchinina et.al. (2012, p. 571) says “there is a serious reason to believe that learning a second language contributes to the expansion of the functional capabilities of the brain and creates the basis for successful cognitive activity.”

The International Cultures and Languages Olympiad of Southwest America is important in these respects. The goal of the program is to contribute to linguistic and cultural diversity in Southwestern region by promoting learning of at least a language other that their own. The organizers foresee that students who learn a foreign language will be able to interact with people from other cultures and get to know them better. This will increase cross-cultural understanding between individuals.

Additionally, students who learn a foreign language will become a multicultural themselves and will take a step towards being a global citizen. The motto of the festival is “colors of the world”

The program is also in line with the language standards of American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). ACTFL established standards in five areas: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons and communities. According to ACTFL (actfl.org):

  • Communication is at the heart of second language study
  • Students gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language
  • Learning languages provides connections to additional bodies of knowledge
  • Through comparisons, students develop insight into the nature of language and the concept of culture and realize that there are multiple ways of viewing the world.
  • These elements enable the student of languages to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world.

By promoting the learning of languages and cultures, the International Cultures and Languages Olympiad of Southwest America complies with the standards for foreign language learning.

Why Support the Festival

Reasons to Support the Festival

  • It is essential for the United States to have more citizens who can speak critical languages and this festival is in line with this long-standing goal of the United States.
  • This event supports and encourages foreign language learning in the USA as established by ACTFL.
  • This event provides an arena where both students and adults in the southwestern states and countries can experience and showcase a less commonly known culture.
  • Teaching modern languages and cultures has been important for this country since World War II. Participating students get motivated and prepare for this event for weeks and improve their language skills as well as cultural knowledge.
  • A problem of our time is the lack of understanding between people from different cultures due to the lack of knowledge of other cultures. By showcasing the language and culture, this program enhances participants' understanding between different groups of our society.
  • This event is one of a group of events promoting languages and cultures that Raindrop Foundation organizes. Other events include foreign languages and ESL classes, cuisine classes, cultural festivals, and cultural nights. All these events together support environments where students can learn languages and different aspects of other cultures.

 

References

Boroditsky, L. (2001). Does language shape thought?: Mandarin and English speakers’ conceptions of time. Cognitive Psychology, 43, 1-22.

CIA. (2010). CIA Director Calls for a National Commitment to Language Proficiency at Foreign Language Summit. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/news-information/press-releases-statements/press-release-2010/foreign-language-summit.html

http://www.actfl.org/files/public/StandardsforFLLexecsumm_rev.pdf

http://www.clscholarship.org/

http://www.nsliforyouth.org/

Humes, K. R., Jones, N. A. & Ramirez, R. R. (2011). Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin:2010. 2010 Census Briefs (Report No. C2010BR-02). Retrieved from

http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf

Jiang, W. (2000). The relationship between culture and language. ELT Journal, 54(4),328-334.

Kruchinina, O. V.,  Galperina, E. I., Kats, E. E. & Shepoval’nikov, A. N. (2012). Factors affecting the variability of the central mechanisms for maintaining bilingualism. Human Physiology, 36(6), 571-585.

Lee, J. & Foreman, K. (2014). Annual Flow Report. U.S. Naturalizations: 2013. Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_natz_fr_2013.pdf.

McComb, C. (2001). About one in four Americans can hold a conversation in a second language.  Gallup. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/1825/about-one-four-americans-can-hold-conversation-second-language.aspx

Monger, R. & Yankay, J. (2014). Annual Flow Report. U.S. Permanent Residents: 2013.Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_lpr_fr_2013.pdf

Richards, J. C. & Rodgers, T. T. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Skorton, D. & Altschuler, G. (2012). America’s foreign languages deficit. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/collegeprose/2012/08/27/americas-foreign-language-deficit/

Whorf, B. L. (1956). Science and linguistics. In J. B. Carroll (Ed.), Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf (pp. 207-219). Cambridge,

MA: MIT Press. (Reprinted from Technology Review, 42:229-231, 247-248, no. 6, 1940)