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Monday, January 27, 2014

Language Center Services Tuesday Morning

On Tuesday, January 28, 2014 The Language Center Jones Classrooms and Multimedia Lab will open at 12:00 p.m. due to morning class cancellations. The Main Office will open at 7:45 a.m. as usual. Please email elsie@umn.edu if you have general questions and langtest@umn.edu if you have testing-related questions.

"Yes They Can!" - Creating learning objectives for our language learners

The Language Center and Committee on Second Language Education (ComSLE) is pleased to announce a one-day workshop for all CLA language instructors (P/A's and graduate students) on February 28th, 2014 (8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.).

At this workshop participants will create "can-do" statements for each major curriculum level of a language that fulfills the CLA language requirement.

Donna Clementi, world language methods instructor at Lawrence University, is a well known consultant and national speaker on curriculum, assessment development and exploring culture through the target language. She recently retired from Concordia Language Villages where she served in numerous positions for over 30 years, including Dean of the French Village and more recently as Director of Education and Research. She received the ACTFL Florence Steiner Award for Leadership in Foreign Language Education (K-12) and the Central States Founders Award. Together with CARLA's Ursula Lentz, she conducts an annual CARLA summer institute on language assessment and curricular design. She is a co-author with Laura Terrill of the recent book, "The Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Design", published by ACTFL.

Donna Clementi will guide us through the process of defining what students are expected to demonstrate in the target language upon completion of each level of the beginning and intermediate curriculum. By the end of this workshop, instructors will have produced extensive "can-do" statements for each level incorporating the ACTFL National Standards and articulating the role that language courses play in the intellectual and personal development of students in the undergraduate curriculum.

Friday, February 28th, 8:30a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided
Coffman Union, Mississippi Room (3rd Floor)

Feel free to bring a laptop or tablet (not required).

We will create a Moodle site for all participants to help prepare for the event and to share the statements for further revision and refinement subsequent to the workshop. Look for the email inviting you to the course.

Please register here by February 14th (Friday). If you have any questions, you can contact Caroline Vang at cevang@umn.edu.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Congratulations to Rachel Faynik Marbell!

Congratulations and best wishes to former World Languages Day assistant Rachel Faynik Marbell, who completed her MA program in International Education. She is now working as the France Programs Coordinator at Intercultural Student Experiences. Although she graduated from the university, Rachel has maintained ties to campus by volunteering with World Languages Day, and continuing to serve as an assistant Gopher Hockey Cheerleading coach.

During the November 15, 2013 game against Mankato State, Jeff's Cagle (a graduate of Mankato) surprised Rachel with an an on-ice proposal. Fortunately, she said yes, and you can see the video on YouTube.

Beth Kautz on Professional Leave Spring 2014

Beth Kautz has been awarded a P&A Professional Development Leave by the College of Liberal Arts during spring semester 2014. Beth will divide her time between a writing project and traveling in Germany. During the first part of the semester, she will focus on writing a book chapter for a forthcoming volume: "Exploring Environmental and Sustainability Issues in the Intermediate-level Foreign Language Curriculum." Content-Based Foreign Language Teaching: Curriculum and Pedagogy for Developing Advanced Thinking and Literacy Skills. Ed. Laurent Cammarata. Routledge, Forthcoming.

During her 6-week trip to Germany, she will be networking with colleagues, visiting many secondary and post-secondary institutions (a curricular focus in German 1003), and absorbing as much as possible about current events related to sustainability and Germany's transition to renewable energies or "die Energiewende." Major stops along the way include: attending the annual conference of the Fachverband Deutsch als Fremdsprache (Association of German as a Second Language) at the University of Münster, shadowing two undergraduates (her niece and nephew) at the University of Leipzig, meeting with the Tandem coordinator at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg, with whom Beth has successfully carried out Skype exchanges with German 3011 and 1003 students the past several years, and finally attending a two-day event "Nachhaltigkeit: Wirtschaftsbremse oder Zukunftschance" (Sustainability: Economic Constraint or Opportunity for the Future) at the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz.

She will return to the CLA Language Center and GSD on May 19th, just in time to teach her Green Germany class at World Languages Day 2014!

TandemPlus Spring Registration is Open Now

Are you becoming bilingual or bicultural? If so, TandemPlus is for you. The TandemPlus program matches people who are learning each other's native languages for a one-semester exchange of language and culture, and Spring Registration is open now.

The newly-renovated Tandem software allows participants to view and self-match with other compatible language partners, create persistent accounts and update their own information, and more. Register at tandem.umn.edu.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New and Improved Language Assessments: Spanish SOPI, ILA, Self-Assessments and More!

Until recently, the Language Proficiency Exam (LPE) was the only central tool available for language students to evaluate their language skills at the intermediate level, and there were no options for students who had surpassed that level. Today though, the Language Testing Program is working with language program developers to diversify the tools available to students, and to reach students whose language is not taught at the University, and those who have achieved higher levels of proficiency.

The LPE remains the most important tool available. In addition to tests already in place for Arabic, Chinese, Hmong, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and a second version of the Spanish LPE Reading and Listening sections, other new assessments are in progress. Development is underway for Finnish, Korean, Somali, and Swahili LPE's this semester. A new form of the German Reading LPE will be piloted in November.

Beyond the LPE, the following new assessments have been piloted, will be piloted or are now actively administered to students: the Spanish Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI), the Individual Language Assessment (ILA) and several Self-Assessment instruments.

The Spanish SOPI

A SOPI is a computerized version of an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) administered in a Digital Language Lab (DiLL) to a class of students simultaneously. The primary advantage of a SOPI over a traditional OPI is that the time required to administer the test is significantly reduced. It would take at least six hours to administer OPIs to a class of 24 students; with a SOPI, this can be done in less than one class period. Of course, all of those exams still need to be rated!

"In delivering an interview via computer, the SOPI may shift the center of power more toward the students; they may feel more ownership of their half of the (simulated) interaction, and thus feel more confident about speaking."  

-Gabriela Sweet, assessment developer and lead trainer

Students are provided with a real-life context to speak in Spanish, recording their responses in the lab using DiLL. Student feedback was generally positive after the February pre-pilot. Students commented that the SOPI is more efficient and less stressful and that they enjoyed using the SOPI in lieu of the traditional face-to-face format.

The SOPI's delivery, in capturing extended student speech, reduces the possibility of a difficult-to-rate interview, which can occur in face-to-face interviews when learners may not get the opportunities they need to demonstrate the full range of their language abilities. Developers hope to use the SOPI assessment with College in the Schools (CiS) students in the future, and it is possible to adapt this assessment for other languages as the prompts are in English.

As with the OPI, SOPI tasks are designed to target a wide range of linguistic functions and real-world topics at the student's target level of proficiency. The SOPI is also more standardized compared to the OPI because it systematically facilitates a ratable sample of student speech. Students naturally tend to speak in complete sentences in the SOPI, which may not happen during the live interview when they can appropriately respond in sentence fragments. Since the SOPI response is at sentence-level, it may be easier for raters to analyze.

A six-person team carried out the SOPI pilot. This team included Spanish 1004 coordinator Sara Mack, Spanish 1004 instructors Marilena Mattos and Stephanie Hernández, Spanish Testing Coordinator Joanne Peltonen, Language Center Testing Development Coordinator Gabriela Sweet and Language Center Technical Coordinator Diane Rackowski. Additional input and support was provided by Language Center Director Dan Soneson.


Did you know the Testing Program now provides assessment in languages from Amharic to Zulu?

CLA students who have achieved proficiency in a language not offered at the University of Minnesota have a new way to demonstrate their proficiency and complete the second language requirement. The ILA is a writing and speaking test that is adaptable for any modern language. It tests to the intermediate level, which is the level expected after two years of university language study. The test is rated by native or near-native speakers of the particular language who are trained and guided by Language Testing Program staff.

Since January 2013, a total of 32 students have been approved to take ILAs in 16 languages from around the world, including major languages spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide, but rare on our campus, and dialects specific to a particular village. The most common languages assessed are Vietnamese and Oromo.

For many languages, it can be challenging to find a qualified rater. Most raters are affiliated with the University as faculty, staff, graduate students, or former students. They are almost always native speakers with some prior linguistic or educational experience. Some of the raters have few other opportunities to use their language skills professionally, although they may use the language in their daily life.

Stephanie Treat, who has assisted with the hiring of most raters, said:

"We often get requests to rate languages that I've never heard of or know little about. We've had fun researching languages and scouring campus and beyond to find potential raters. The University of Minnesota is a global community, and with persistence, we can usually find someone currently connected to campus who is pleased to share his or her expertise."

In order to conform to the CLA mandate for proficiency in a second language, ILA raters are trained using guidelines that align with those used to evaluate student performance in languages that are taught at the University of Minnesota and that have an LPE. Before ILA raters begin the evaluation process, they are made familiar with both the instrument and the target level for production. The rater-training process is very hands-on; criteria are analyzed and then applied. The rater works closely with the rater trainer. Raters are guided through the process using a rater-training module.

The Language Testing Program plans to create a video to facilitate rater training, as well as refresher training, for raters who have completed evaluations at an earlier date but would need a quick refamiliarization to ensure that they apply the criteria in the same way to a new student's ILA. "We've been fortunate to work with some very talented people," assessment developer and lead trainer Gabriela Sweet said.

"It's fascinating to work with someone on a language with which you, the trainer, have very little experience, to see them point out clearly how students demonstrate the target levels. It has been a wonderful experience for us, in the Testing Program, to see how students in a variety of languages are able to show their proficiency in alignment with the College of Liberal Arts student learning objectives. I think it's also a privilege to be able to learn from colleagues in diverse languages; in hearing what students say and reading what they write in the ILAs we begin to see that the world is, in some ways, quite small... we're all working toward many of the same goals."  

- Gabriela Sweet

Students interested in completing the CLA second language requirement via ILA exam should begin by contacting their advisor. CLA Student Services approves requests first, and then students contact the Language Testing Program to schedule an exam. There is a $30.00 fee assessed to assist with the cost of rater compensation. Students who pass both sections of the exam complete the CLA second language requirement.

Self-Assessment Instruments

Self-Assessment instruments help students become more aware of their own language development and describe their level of proficiency. This type of instrument requires little time to administer and students can take it from home at their convenience. Students can take the same assessment more than once and track their language development over time.

Two Self-Assessments for Spanish are currently in development: one intended for Spanish 1004 students and another which assesses higher-level proficiency for students pursuing the Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency. Developers are also creating new self-assessments for German, Italian, and French.

Students can use these self-assessments for feedback on performance in a language and to better prepare themselves before taking the LPE or other exam. In a pilot study in Fall 2013, many students found the self-assessments helpful and noted that routine self-assessment would be helpful in the future. The test developers will be very pleased to share more information about these instruments once they have been piloted and results have been analyzed.

SOPI, ILA, Self-Assessments

Developers in the Language Testing Program and the academic departments have been hard at work developing and improving language assessment instruments to create a more personalized, modern, and enjoyable testing experience for students. Undergraduate students themselves have played an important role by piloting these assessments and providing valuable feedback to developers. These new tests are designed to accurately reflect students' abilities and to provide them with information they can use as they continue to develop their proficiency.

Type of AssessmentBenefits / ImprovementsDevelopment Timeframe
New Language Proficiency Exams (LPE's)Korean and Somali were added as new LPE exam options. Adding these languages provides students with more possibilities in assessing language proficiency.Korean: Will pilot Reading in Spring. Listening & Writing are ready to go!

Somali: Will pilot Reading, Listening, and likely Writing this Spring
New German Reading TestDeveloped another form in addition to Form A. Form B is up-to-date; the readings from Form A were 20 years old. Better quality photos were also added.The Reading test will be piloted this Fall semester
Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI)Spanish 1004: Extended time limit for thinking and speaking. Bigger, better resolution photos.Piloted in Spring 2013
Individualized Language Assessment (ILA)One format for all languages as a test of Speaking and Writing. Allows students flexibility in composing responses about real-world situations.The test has been administered to 16 students with many more expected in the future. The long-term goal is to develop multiple versions of the test.
Self-Assessment InstrumentsSpanish 1004: Students can demonstrate their second language proficiency before taking final proficiency tests

Spanish Advanced Level: To help students determine their proficiency level. Intended for students pursuing the Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency.
Spanish 1004: Pilot was completed in Fall 2013

Spanish Advanced Level: Piloted with Spanish students December 11, 2013

German: Pilot 5 sections in Spring 2014

Italian: Pilot in two section Spring 2014

French: Pilot in eight sections Spring 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

CLA Outstanding Service Award Recipient!

Congratulations to Stephanie Treat, Office Supervisor in the CLA Language Center, who has been selected to receive a CLA Outstanding Service Award for 2012-2013.

We know her to be a tireless administrator and innovative advocate for language teaching and learning. She has successfully worked with a wide variety of constituents to produce the annual World Languages Day, to shepherd the Advanced Certificate in Spanish Language from the beginning through its approval by the Regents, to collaborate with language programs and the testing staff in managing personnel to generate new models of assessment, and to guide much of the business of the Committee on Second Language Education (ComSLE) through its process. In addition, she was a key member of the team that generated the SLA Working Group report this past year. This is truly a well-deserved award.

There will be a CLA Staff Appreciation Ceremony on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall, McNamara Alumni Center to recognize all individuals and teams receiving these awards.

Please join me in congratulating Stephanie and plan to attend the award ceremony next week.

Dan Soneson, Director, CLA Language Center

Moodle Tutoring Available from IT Technical Training

Faculty, instructors and course designers can sign-up for one-on-one or small group 30-minute tutoring sessions at the Coffman Union Tech Stop or the the Blegen 90 Tech Stop.

To schedule, either select an appointment slot using Google Calendar (the Moodle appointment calendar will appear on top of your calendar so you can find an appointment that works with your schedule) or fill out this appointment request form.

Spanish Advanced-Level Certificate Orientation and Workshop

Students interested in pursuing the Spanish Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency are invited to come to an orientation session on Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones 35 to learn more about this certificate and and ask questions. There will also be an opportunity to take the self-assessment instrument. Testing and Advising staff will be on hand to help students interpret their results.

Registration for the event is not required. However, potential candidates for the certificate are encouraged to fill out this short form to be informed of upcoming events and opportunities.

A second Orientation and Workshop will be held on March 14, 2014, 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones Hall room 10.

Friday, January 10, 2014

World Languages Day 2014: Application of Interest Submission Period

The CLA Language Center is pleased to announce that the Application of Interest for the 11th annual World Languages Day (WLD) will be available on the WLD website from January 15th through January 31st. World Languages Day is a great opportunity for Minnesota high school students to explore the languages and cultures of the world and to experience life at the University of Minnesota.

We would also like to welcome Ellen Buckner as the newest member of the World Languages Day team. Originally from the Twin Cities, Ellen has spent the past two years teaching English in a rural village in South Africa. Prior to living in South Africa, Ellen taught ESL in Houston, Texas; she currently works in a metro-area junior high school. She is excited to be involved in continuing the tradition of World Languages Day.

This year the event is intended for sophomore-level language classes but all students in those classes are encouraged to participate. There is no cost to register, and teachers, counselors, and parents are also invited to attend. Interested high school teachers should fill out the application; official invitations will be extended to schools in February after applications are reviewed. If more teachers submit applications than we can accommodate, the planning committee will select groups to invite based on our goal of bringing as much geographic, linguistic, and cultural diversity to the event as possible. Any groups that we are not initially able to accommodate will be placed on a waiting list.

The Application of Interest form requires a username and password. If you did not receive this information via email, please contact wld@umn.edu or fill out this short form to join our contact list. If you have any questions regarding the application, please feel free to contact us via email at wld@umn.edu or refer to the FAQ on the WLD website.

The event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 20, 2014 and will take place on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota campus. Schools that are invited will have their students register for three language and culture classes in April. Similar to last year, there will be an extended version of the schedule for schools interested in having their students attend a class on topics like college readiness or study abroad. This extended version of the schedule allows all students to sample up to three languages while still giving them them the opportunity to attend an informational session. Below is an overview of this year's itinerary. We hope to have you join us for the 11th Annual World Languages Day!

Standard Session

9:20 AM - 9:50 AM   Check-in and light breakfast

10:00 AM - 10:25 AM   Welcoming Remarks

10:35 AM - 11:15 AM   First Class

11:25 AM - 12:05 PM   Second Class

12:15 PM - 12:55 PM   Third Class

Extended Session (includes an extra informational class)

8:30 AM - 9:00 AM   Check-in and light breakfast

9:10 AM - 9:40 AM   Welcoming Remarks

9:45 AM -10:25 AM   Optional Informational Class

10:35 AM -11:15 AM   First Class

11:25 AM -12:05 PM   Second Class

12:15 PM -12:55 PM   Third Class

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Advanced-Level Spanish Certificate Option Approved for Students

The Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency in Spanish program was recently approved as an option for students to have their language proficiency formally recognized beyond the Language Proficiency Exam (LPE). This is a great option for students of Spanish whose abilities extend beyond the intermediate level and who want to have their advanced-level proficiency formally recognized.

The Advanced-Level Certificate option is open to all undergraduate University of Minnesota students, regardless of their major or college. The certificate program will be administered jointly by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and the CLA Language Center.

The LPE can assess language proficiency skills up to the intermediate level. The Advanced-Level Spanish Certificate program will be able to assess skills up to the advanced level. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) guidelines determine advanced-level proficiency. According to these guidelines, students with advanced-level proficiency do not necessarily perform like native speakers. However, they have reading, writing, listening and speaking skills sufficient enough to navigate daily situations, such as routine school and work requirements and can be generally understood by native speakers.

One of the goals of the Certificate Program is to provide students with an internationally-recognized marker of proficiency once they achieve advanced-level proficiency. Another goal is: "To encourage the integration of language and culture learning across students' academic and professional lives, and empower students to be responsible for their own second language acquisition."1

There are several steps required for completing the Advanced-Level certificate, including: passing the Spanish LPE, passing two approved upper-level courses taught in Spanish, completing an intensive Spanish language immersion experience, taking a self-assessment, completing a critical reflection essay, and passing the ACTFL advanced-level exam. Please see the Advanced-Level Certificate informational website for a full list of requirements.

Students interested in learning more about the certificate are encouraged to attend a Certificate Orientation and Self-Assessment Workshop on January 22, 2014 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones 35. Information about the certificate is also available at http://z.umn.edu/spancert.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Language Center Services Today

On Monday, January 6, 2014 the Language Center will be very marginally staffed in Jones Hall today. However, all teams will be pleased to provide service remotely. Please email elsie@umn.edu for general requests and information, and langtest@umn.edu for anything related to language testing, and someone will respond to you promptly.