What I Love about ACTFL

Iactft-2018-convention-logot’s always an exciting time right before Thanksgiving…not because of time off, yummy food, and time with family and friends (while those are exciting) but because it means that the Annual ACTFL Convention has arrived! As a district coordinator, my ACTFL week is a bit different from many; my learning starts on Tuesday afternoon. By the time ACTFL arrives, I’m ready to “relax” and take in sessions that I can immediately apply in trainings at home.

What I loved this year…

This year, learning more about the Intercultural Can-Do Statements was a huge theme. From listening to Frank Troyan lead us through how and why genre matters in lesson design to Ruta Couet and Jacque Van Houten sharing with us how the IC can-do’s should be the basis of curriculum. My biggest takeaways from these sessions were questions I could ask when I visit classrooms: what is the can-do? What is the evidence that students mastered the can-do?  How can students use the can-do tomorrow? Very powerful questions when working with teachers.

I am so very excited about the new Language Resource Center at the University of Maryland: Professionals in Education Advancing Research and Language Learning (PEARLL) led by Thomas Sauer. Being a one-person show in my district (i.e. no specialists), I have many ideas but not enough hours. PEARLL is going to be a huge asset to my work in helping teachers to be the best they can possibly be.

I always enjoy hearing Greta Lundgaard. Her session on tips for surviving curriculum revision was just what I needed to get me through the remainder of the school year. Being in the midst of keeping a team motivated while rewriting a framework to be proficiency-based is my daily reality. However, I am challenged by keeping the motivation going long-term and garnering the strength and energy to tackle the revision process once the rewrite is completed. Greta is always inspirational and spot-on with her observations and takeaways.

What I love year after year…

What I love about ACTFL is the generous, sharing spirit that most presenters have. It is such an opportune occasion to attend the sessions from the leaders in the profession. And, if you haven’t had a chance to meet them, it’s easy to go up and introduce yourself or ask a follow-up question. Almost without fail, every presenter is willing to engage in conversation either right then or a bit later. ACTFL is the place to make connections and build your professional learning network. Our work is hard enough; we don’t need to isolate ourselves from others but we need to build bridges so we can work together towards our common goal.

The other marvelous aspect of the ACTFL Convention is the variety of sessions offered. When I have the opportunity to bring teachers from my district, I always advise them to figure out ahead of time what sessions they wish to attend; to choose the sessions that have meaning to them; and, then if they are in a session that doesn’t “speak” to them, move somewhere else. If they leave ACTFL without gaining a lot, it is really their own fault. The sessions are there:  formal sessions, panels, papers, and unconference-type discussions. A variety of input to meet the needs of thousands of educators.

While I am always ready to come home at the end of ACTFL, it’s bittersweet. I have a convention family that I am able to spend time with and learn from for a week out of the year.  That is what I look forward to the most every year.

Mi casa es su casa


The American Dream, a key piece of which is home ownership, is flourishing in Latinx communities all across the nation. By every economic measure, the buying power of Spanish-speaking Americans is skyrocketing to the tune of over $2 trillion. That buying power is most especially manifesting itself in home ownership, evidenced by the statistic that over 6 million new homes will be purchased by Latinx consumers within the next few years. As a prominent executive with the National Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) remarked, “With a growing Hispanic population and the highest rate of workforce participation, Hispanics are expected to drive growth in the housing market for decades”. While this is certainly good news for the real estate business, it also presents a series of unique challenges that will need to be met as this industry adapts to a Spanish-speaking customer base.

NAHREP recommends that the first step would be “to address the incredible shortage of Spanish-language speaking, culturally competent real estate agents (7%) and mortgage professionals (4%)”. The lack of bilingual professionals in this key area is a drag on the market. Many Latinx homebuyers express a preference for agents who can explain complicated transactions in a readily understandable format. Cultural sensitivity is also important, introducing upwardly mobile people into neighborhoods that might not reflect their ethnic identities and helping people select areas where they feel at home. As one homebuyer commented, “The (Spanish-speaking) agent was able to tell us if we would feel comfortable around the neighborhood.”

Given the economic projections for the future, improved language skills and cultural sensibilities will play important roles in the world of real estate for some time to come. There will be an increased need for multilingual professionals in both real estate and financial services, and these will surely create ripple effects in the banking and insurance sectors as well. Local government officials and educators will need to respond as demographic shifts alter the social landscape of communities. The need for certified, proficient Spanish speakers has never been greater and will only continue to grow as America becomes more diverse and prosperous.

Since 1992, Language Testing International (LTI) a Samsung Company, and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), have been offering valid and reliable reading, writing, speaking, and listening tests in more than 120 languages, in more than 60 countries.

LTI administers language assessments to hundreds of thousands of candidates every year and is one of the largest and most respected foreign language proficiency test providers in the world. We offer the highest level of client service as well as convenient online test scheduling and reporting over secure client networks.

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Minimum Language Requirements Are Not Enough to Keep Our Skies Safe!


A terrifying mid-air collision in 2017 was caused by two international pilot trainees who both lacked basic English language proficiency. One of the pilots was severely injured, the other pilot died.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released a report on the crash that occurred between two flight school airplanes near St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec. The report clearly states that lack of language proficiency in English and French on the student’s part muddled the complex aeronautical environment that caused the accident.

The investigation states that both pilots “deviated from the altitude restrictions provided by air traffic control before colliding in mid-air.” According to the report, the pilots involved in the crash were international flight students enrolled in training in Canada.

Both of the pilots in the crash were tested and met the minimum English-language proficiency requirements to fly, however, neither pilot’s first language was English or French. According to the TSB report, improper and insufficient language proficiency testing, which allowed these student pilots with low English-language proficiency to pass, is likely a key factor in the cause of the crash.

The investigation found that it’s not possible to ensure the validity, reliability or nation-wide standardization of the aviation language proficiency testing (ALPT) given by Transport Canada, as there is little to no oversight of the examiners. Even though pilots must be at operational or expert level in English or French (or both), “operational,” meaning they met a minimum international proficiency level to be able to communicate with air traffic control, it wasn’t enough.  A Civil Aviation Safety Alert was published, citing the risks created by improper validity, reliability and standardization in language testing.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded with the recommendation that all international student pilots should be tested through private language proficiency testing programs, and be required to meet stringent English-language standards to obtain personal licensing prior to their first solo flight.

Assess with Confidence

Language Testing International (LTI) administers language assessments to hundreds of thousands of candidates every year and is one of the largest and most respected foreign language proficiency test providers in the world. We offer the highest level of client service as well as convenient online test scheduling and reporting over secure client networks.

Contact us today to learn more

The OPIc Arrives in China

The Oral Proficiency Interview computer system (OPIc), developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), was recently introduced in Shanghai to assist those seeking employment with international companies to demonstrate their proficiency. Currently, the OPIc covers 13 languages and five of them, English, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish, are now available in China.

“The system was introduced in China because it contains evaluation tests for multiple languages, rather than a single language like other tests,” said Li Peize, President of the Beijing-based Chinese Testing International of the Confucius Institute. “It was designed by more than 10,000 language experts around the world.”
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