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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 5, 2004

UI's Everson Named President Of Language Council

When most students consider studying a foreign language, their choices are likely to be limited to Spanish, French and, in larger schools, German. But what if a student wants to study Farsi, or Cantonese or Russian?

As the United States' population continues to diversify, and interaction with countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East grows, there is an increasing demand for educators who can teach languages native to those places.

"The fact of the matter is that in United States secondary and university foreign language education, Spanish is becoming more and more dominant, based largely on the supposition that we need to teach Spanish because we have so many Spanish speakers in this country," said Michael Everson, an associate professor of foreign language education in the University of Iowa College of Education's Curriculum & Instruction Department. "While this is true, we also need to take an outward looking approach to the world around us, and to understand that the so-called 'less commonly taught' languages are actually the most frequently spoken languages in the world. When it comes to dealing with the global economy as well as national security issues, from a linguistic perspective, we are woefully under-armed."

Everson, who is conversant in spoken and written Chinese, hopes to help change that as recently elected president of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL). He was inaugurated as president in May, during NCOLCTL's annual meeting, following two years as secretary-treasurer and two as vice president. The term for president is two years as well.

In addition to taking a lead in planning NCOLCTL's annual conferences, Everson plans to work with the organization to launch a new journal dedicated to the topic. He will also work to further the teaching and learning of less commonly taught languages throughout the United States.

"It's a great honor to be an advocate for languages that are not in the American educational mainstream but which are still spoken by millions of Americans in their homes and communities," Everson said. "My reward is when I hear from a teacher that Hindi is now being offered in her local high school, or that an after school program in Yoruba or Farsi has been started up. Or, as happened last year, that the letter of support I sent to a school board resulted in their decision to hold off cutting their Japanese program. In the less commonly taught language business, the numbers are often small, but the stakes remain huge."

Everson, whose specialties are foreign language and ESL (English as a Second Language) education, holds a Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education from The Ohio State University (1986); an M.A. in Chinese from the University of Hawaii, where he was an East-West Center Fellow (1971); and a B.A. in Chinese from the University of Wisconsin (1969).

Prior to joining the UI, Everson was an associate professor of Chinese at the United States Air Force Academy.

In addition to his roles with the NCOLCTL, Everson is a member of the Chinese Language Teachers' Association, the Association of Teachers of Japanese, the American Educational Research Association and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. He is also a member of The Modern Language Journal's editorial board.

Formed in 1990, NCOLCTL fosters the teaching and learning of languages that have traditionally not enjoyed prominence in the American educational mainstream, and to help teachers, administrators and practitioners of these languages form professional organizations.

The council currently consists of 18 member organizations: American Association of Teachers of Arabic (AATA), American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL), Association of Teachers of Japanese (ATJ), Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA), Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Language (COTSEAL), International Association of Teachers of Czech (IATC), South Asian Language Teachers Association (SALTA), Cantonese Language Association (CLA), Norwegian Researchers and Teachers Association of North America (NORTANA), American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR), North American Association for Celtic Language Teachers (NAACLT), National Council of Japanese Language Teachers (NCJLT), American Association of Teachers of Korean (AATK), American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages (AATL), African Language Teachers Association (ALTA), Chinese Language Association of Secondary Elementary Schools (CLASS), National Association of Self-Instructional Language Programs (NASLIP), and the National Association of Professors of Hebrew (NAPH).

Each year, the council sponsors a four-day conference that includes conference papers and workshops dedicated to informing less commonly taught language professionals of the latest developments in a variety of areas, such as program development, technological innovation for language instruction, materials development, curriculum development, and language education policy.

Formed under the banner of "collective solutions for common problems," the council has been instrumental in providing a voice for language professionals who have in the past been marginalized in the larger national dialogue dealing with language education in America.

"It's important that schools support the teaching of less commonly taught languages so as to develop this expertise for the nation, while providing students opportunities to explore languages and cultures they would normally not encounter," Everson said.

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