by Kim Jansma

Today, as never before, Americans understand that effective participation in the global community requires the passport of at least one second language. The recent proliferation of digital technology helps make this possible. From our laptops, we can watch news broadcasts from China or Egypt, access Japanese manga, or view West African griots practice an oral art that influences contemporary rap. Unfortunately, though, we won't become proficient in languages just by listening to foreign movies, songs, and lectures on our iPods at the gym and on the commute. Second language acquisition requires a disciplined, systematic approach, carefully tailored to each learner’s level and communicative goals. For most adults, the path to acquisition of a world language goes through a classroom led by a trained professional. But what does a contemporary language classroom look like in this new media age, and what kind of activities are taking place both inside and outside its walls?

To help answer these questions, we are launching the New Language Classroom, a website conceived and designed by the UCLA Center for World Languages and partially funded by UCLA’s Office of Instructional Development. The NLC demonstrates how foreign language instruction at UCLA is adapting to the digital world. You can navigate the site from a number of perspectives.

  • Conversations presents candid video interviews with instructors about their work, their personal journey in the field and their efforts to harness new media to bring real world language and culture to their students. Footage includes classroom shots and student assessments of the use of new technology. 
  • Projects showcases concrete applications of technology to language teaching. See how Seinfeld episodes can be used to teach ESL students American intonation and body language. View video clips of people counting from one to ten in a variety of languages to demonstrate the concept of language families. Or watch students learn Japanese grammar through manga.
  • Technology lists the tools instructors used to build their projects and the technical requirements for replicating them.

A May 9 symposium at UCLA on “Teaching World Languages in the Digital Age” will help to launch this site. Both UCLA instructors and outside guests will exhibit creative uses of new media for language instruction. We’ll present some of the projects featured on the website and look forward to seeing additional innovative work that will be added to the New Language Classroom in the future.

We are grateful to Scott Gruber for building this site, to Oliver Chien for shooting and editing interviews and other videos, and to Trevor Merrill and April Girouard for their work on the interviews.