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Language in Motion: Spreading the Word on Languages and Culture

The Language Lovers Series, Part 3                                  

By Christine S. Maxwell

Grassroot programs can produce huge changes and can have national and international effects.   Such is the case with Language in Motion (LiM), whose efforts began humbly in a small community and have grown into a national effort to spread the good word of learning languages and diverse cultures within the educational setting.

Small Beginnings

LiM started at Juniata College, a small, renowned liberal arts college in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the community in which I reside. (See Juniata College, Language in Motion Celebrating its 16th year, LiM was founded by Joanne Wallace, Dean of International Programs at Juniata College, in 2000.   Dr. Deborah Roney, who has been the program’s director since its inception, joined Wallace in piloting the program at Juniata College. From its small beginnings at Juniata, the program has developed into a consortium of  15  colleges and universities throughout the nation.  

National Partnerships and Program Benefits

Started in 2006, the consortium consists of, in addition to Juniata College, some of our nation’s finest higher educational institutions: Bryn Mawr College, Dartmouth College, Drew University, Iowa State University, Lebanon Valley College, Lewis & Clark University, Linfield College, Middlebury College, Old Dominion University, Pacific University, Vassar College, Westminster College, and Willamette College. All of the participants share the goals of LiM through their mission to expand, enrich, and energize language and culture teaching throughout the American educational environment from kindergarten through colleScreen Shot 2016-08-09 at 4.45.29 PMge (K-16).   LiM also provides outstanding professional development opportunities for educators for support of language acquisition, teaching methodology, and culture.

These programs are vital in the communities which they serve.  Typically, college students partner with the local schools and provide valuable, real-life classroom instruction to elementary and secondary school students.   Currently, the programs to the schools are offered at no cost.  As with any important service program, funding is paramount and remains a challenge for many consortium members.   The Arthur Davis Vining Foundations have supported startups of several LiM programs nationwide, but ongoing funding is necessary to retain these quality programs.   

For many teachers, the LiM program has been a valuable addition to the curriculum.   Interaction with college students who are from other countries or with American students who have studied abroad is a new and life-changing experience for younger students.  Many primary and secondary students have never interacted with people from other countries nor have interacted with those who have studied abroad. These students have received informative and inspiring messages from the visitors.   LiM provides an authentic way to prepare America’s youth to be global citizens of the 21st century.

Local Highlights

Our local program through Juniata College shines brightly and casts its light through a broad spectrum of our region in Central Pennsylvania.  The College, community, and grants support its endeavors. Since its inception, 810 college students from 96 countries and territories have visited  area schools.    Last year, more than 5,000 students heard the good news of the presenters. In addition, approximately 60 languages have been represented since inception,  including such unusual languages as  Amharic, Djerma, Irish Gaelic, Tatar, and Haitian Creole.     

Over the years in my classes in a small, rural, high school, students have welcomed visitors from almost every Spanish-speaking country.   Other cultures have also been introduced.   Memorable presentations include the Amazonian who explained how to prepare a spear for hunting wild animals, the Honduran student who danced with students in her native village dress, the Russian speaker who told us about Father Christmas, the Chinese guest who showed us how to write numbers from 1 to 100 in Chinese, and the American student who taught us the basics of American Sign Language.  Students also enthusiastically received and participated in presentations on the culture of soccer and the history of art in Spanish.    Similarly, students considered several presentations on medical Spanish given by pre-medicine students to be valuable since health occupations is a popular career choice.

Peace- Building Mission

Dr. Roney of Juniata College considers LiM to be a “peace-building mission.” Truly,  LiM promotes peace by providing support, knowledge, and a desire to build partnerships with other nations and cultures.   Let’s continue to spread the good word of languages and cultures locally, nationally, and internationally through programs such as Language in Motion!

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