In 2010 UNESCO created Language Days for each of the UN’s six official languages to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. April 23rd was chosen for English Language Day, because it was William Shakespeare’s birthday. Through my years as a Foreign Service officer, I have observed that English has become a global language, connecting people from different countries and cultural backgrounds.
Promoting the teaching and learning of English has been an integral part of our public diplomacy for many years. Proficiency in English opens economic opportunities in science, business, technology, and higher education for our international partners around the world and offers skills for a better future. The Office of English Language Programs at the Department of State provides a one-stop shop for free, high-quality materials that teachers and learners can download. The site also provides virtual training tools and a powerful search feature to locate the right resources from our library of 1,000 books to read, songs to learn, and games to play while practicing English. We also launched a new Facebook page that provides a wealth of resources for classroom use and self-study.
New technologies expand the reach of our programs to meet the demand for English language learning. Our American English mobile app provides audiences worldwide with English language learning resources on lower-tech feature phones and Android devices. The app consolidates our wide range of e-books, audiobooks, music, quizzes, the “Trace Word Soup” vocabulary game, and more. The Shaping the Way We Teach English webinar series provides professional development courses for English teachers worldwide. The course includes a social networking site where teachers can access previous sessions and supplementary materials as well as participate in online discussions with their colleagues.
The pilot “Shaping the Way We Teach English” Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for English teachers was launched this month through a partnership with University of Oregon and Coursera. We also partnered with UC Berkeley to extend the reach of its College Writing Course for non-native English speakers. Participating U.S. Embassies hosted facilitated discussions sessions to maximize the learning experience and keep participants motivated. Our e-Teacher Scholarship Program is designed to improve the quality of overseas English language teaching through on-line graduate level course.
Trace Effects is our innovative 3-D video game. The game is a valuable classroom addition for teachers or for students looking for a fun way to practice English and learn about American culture along the way. Trace Effects will soon reach 100,000 games played through the online version. An additional 50,000 DVDs of the game are in circulation across the globe.
Of course, face-to-face encounters are critical to breaking down cultural barriers and building relationships with citizens abroad. I am very proud of our English Language Specialist and Fellows programs, which allow Americans to engage with teachers overseas and promote mutual understanding, doing their part to contribute to a global community of networked English language professionals. We also send American college graduates overseas as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants to work in underserved schools and universities.
The need for high-quality English language programs is vast and growing. Anyone can use our free materials. Please take some time to check them out on americanenglish.state.gov, share the site with friends, students, and colleagues, and tell us what you think on our Facebook page. Our long term goal for programs and products look to technology is ensure that teachers and students everywhere have easy access to quality English teaching materials and stay connected for the long term.