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NCOLCTL 2017 Conference Report

This year marked the 20th milestone of the Annual Conference of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL).  The 2017 NCOLCTL Conference, under the theme, the LCTL Mission: Advancing Intercultural Communication through Research and Practice for K-16, was held from April 21-23, 2017, with pre-conference workshops held on April 20, 2017 at the Holiday Inn, 3405 Algonquin Road, Rolling Meadows, IL 60008.  Following a long-standing tradition, The African Language Teachers Association (ALTA), also partnered with NCOLCTL for their 21st Annual Conference, which ran concurrently with an African focus on the NCOLCTL conference theme.

The highlights of this year’s conference include the pre-conference training workshop, five plenary sessions, colloquia and presentations, an awards ceremony and language-focused exhibitions. A vibrant LCTL community participated in this year’s conference from Educational Institutions, Language Centers, Government and Private Agencies, within and outside the United States.  

Dr. David Victor, a Professor of Management and International Business at Eastern Michigan University, facilitated the two pre-conference workshops on the afternoon of Thursday April, 20. “What Do Employers Want? Finding the Sweet Spot for Language and Culture Providers” helped language and culture instructors to identify which skills instructors may wish to downplay (less desired) and which ones they should emphasize, namely 1. Reinforcement skills (those that employers identify as more commonly taught and more desired), and 2. Sweet spot skills (those that employers identify as less commonly taught and more desired). The workshop ended with critical information on how to market their skills in the business world. “Using Case Vignettes and Dialogues in Teaching Cross-Cultural Business Communication instructed language and business faculty on how to use dialogues from actual business exchanges and vignette cases with executive comments as a hands-on pedagogical tool in teaching cross-cultural business communication. Dr. Victor was also a plenary speaker and presented on the theme: “The Importance of Less Commonly Taught Languages in Global Business.”

The inaugural plenary session on April 21st  was led by a dynamic panel –  Antonia Schleicher (Chair): Professor of Linguistics, Indiana University and the NCOLCTL Executive Director; Richard D. Brecht: Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland; Dan Davidson: President of American Councils for International Education and Professor of Russian, Bryn Mawr College; Bill Rivers: Executive Director, Joint National Committee for Languages – National Council for Language and International Studies and Brian Edwards: Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University. The roundtable deliberated on the “Report of the National Commission on Language Education and Its Consequences for the Language Profession.” The most important aspect to this discussion was the implementation of this report within the LCTL learning and teaching communities.

A celebratory mood ushered in the second plenary session led by a seasoned team of panelists - Marjorie Hall Haley, Professor of Education at George Mason University, Betsy Hart, Director of Programs, National Foreign Language Center, University of Maryland, and Diane Varieur, Government Program Manager, STARTALK, National Security Agency. “A STARTALK at 10: Impact, Innovation and Resources,” presented the achievements of the STARTALK program as well as innovative ideas to sustain and grow STARTALK.

Dr. Lixing Frank Tang led the third plenary session on Saturday April 22nd, on “Humanizing Teaching: A Humanistic Approach to Teaching Languages and Resources”. As a research professor of foreign language education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, Dr. Tang’s session showcased novel directions in humanistic approaches to language teaching and learning by taking a holistic dimension to educating the language student, creating more right-brain oriented instructional design and bringing more meaning, stories, empathy, and play into the language classrooms. 

“Bringing Proficiency into Your Classroom” brought down the curtain on our stimulating plenary sessions. The fifth plenary talk on Sunday April 23, featured Paul Sandrock, Director of Education at The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). ACTFL has consistently shown interest and support of NCOLCTL activities over the years and the theme of this final lecture was strategic both as a concluding address and great post-conference food for thought for the departing LCTL language instructors headed back to the classroom.


The conference dedicated six sessions to colloquia and ten parallel sessions to presentations. An Chung Cheng (University of Toledo) and Yue Gu (St. John's Jesuit High School & Academy) co-presented on Transitioning into Learner-Centered Classes across Cultures: A STARTALK Experience, which provided an in-depth analysis of how teachers’ assumptions, perspectives, and behaviors change overtime and of the relationship of teacher cognition to their classroom practices among foreign-born teachers of Chinese heritage schools. The Spatial Relationship in the Kazakh/Uyghur Languages and Its Integration with Teaching Materials, was the colloquium title of Zeinekhan Kuzekova (Nazarbayev University), and his Co-Presenters: Mahire Yakup, (Nazarbayev University), Samal Abzhanova (Suleyman Demiral University), and Maira Zholshayeva (The Kazak National University).

Presentations on the different days included “Refugee Camp Stays and Effects on Swahili Language Heritage Learners: Case study of Congolese Refugee Youth in New Haven, Connecticut” by Veronica Waweru (Yale University); “Creating Children’s Literature in Underserved African Languages: Experiences of the African Storybook in Several Countries, 2014-16 and What We Have Learned” by Judith Baker (African Storybook Project Johannesburg); “The 2016 NALRC Intensive Summer Language Workshop –Lessons and Experiences in Professional Development” by Susan Kavaya (Indiana University) and Co-Presenter: Gorrety Wawire (University of Mississippi); and “The Effectiveness of the Written Corrective Feedback for the Beginner Learners of Russian” presented by Elena Doludenko (Indiana University), which suggested that for beginners, the focused WCF (where only one type of error is corrected) is more beneficial than the unfocused WCF (where multiple types of errors are corrected). Jeongyi Lee (Kennesaw State University) engaged listeners during the Poster Session on the topic: “Analyzing Korean Conversations between Nonnative and Native Speakers”. One of our first time attendees and presenters, Leticia Pagkalinawan (University of Hawaii), spoke on “Oral Presentations with VoiceThread: A Collaborative Assessment Strategy for Enhancing Oral Proficiency, Listening Skills, and Oral Presentation Practices” which examines how the use of VoiceThread enhances language proficiency, listening skills, and oral presentation practices of students in beginning Filipino.

The Saturday night awards ceremony and dinner is renowned for togetherness, great cuisine, dancing shoes, and most importantly, a time to recognize excellence in scholarship and distinguished service within the LCTL community. Dr. Laura Kaplan Murray of the National Security Agency received the 2017 Ronald Walton Award. One of the heights of her achievement in the promotion of LCTLs is her sole initiative as founder of the STARTALK program. Her biography confirms: “While at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), she launched the STARTALK program, which provides introductory language training for K-16 students and teaches professional development in 11 critical languages. STARTALK continues to be a robust program which has provided learning opportunities for more than 62,000 students and teachers in all 50 states.  Dr. Murray was awarded a National Intelligence Certificate of Distinction in 2010 for being “singularly responsible” for the creation of STARTALK.” The proud recipients of the 2017 NFMLTA-NCOLCTL Graduate Research Awards are Asma Ben Romdhane (Northwestern University); Bing Mu (Ohio State University); Elena Doludenko (Indiana University); Mahbuba Hammad (Cal State University), and Xia Xue (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Congratulations!

Governmental, not-for-profit and for-profit organizations and businesses participated in and supported the NCOLCTL conference as sponsors, exhibiters and advertisers. They include the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (NFMLTA), National African Language Resource Center (NALRC), National Foreign Language Center (NFLC), American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), National Language Service Corps (NLSC), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Avant Assessment, Michigan State University Press, IU Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), Center for Language Excellence(CLE at IUB), and our first time exhibiters, Mango Languages, which specializes in providing language-learning resources.

Business meetings are a crucial component of the conference. The governing bodies of NCOLCTL/ALTA, namely The Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly, hold meetings to brainstorm, access and reevaluate the directions of their organizations. Additionally, other LCTL linguistic sub-groups meet in other spaces to deliberate on matters relevant to the specific languages they represent. The Chama cha Ukuzaji wa Kiswahili Duniani (CHAUKIDU) group met this year to discuss ways to promote the teaching and learning of Kiswahili.

The spirit of volunteerism has always been an integral part of the success of the NCOLCTL/ALTA Conference as well. This year, the dedicated NCOLCTL/ALTA Secretariat staff, the NALRC staff and our enthusiastic team of volunteers (mostly Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTAs) and Graduate students) worked tirelessly to make NCOLCTL/ALTA 2017, one of distinction. Our profoundest gratitude goes to John O. Adeika, Indiana University; Nana Aba Bentil-Mawusi, Indiana University; Sumant Bandhari, Indiana University; Abhinash Tummala, Indiana University; Ligia Belisario, Indiana University; Yewande Aluko, Indiana University; Ashraf Waziri, Indiana University; Nevin Durmaz, Indiana University, Nyamsuren Dorjpalam, Indiana University; Tolulope Akinwole, University of Wisconsin; Adebimpe Adegbite, Florida Memorial University; Japhet Ajani, Ohio University-Athens and Kayode Odumboni, New York University.

A special word of thanks goes to the Executive Director of NCOLCTL and ALTA, Dr. Antonia Schleicher, the President of NCOLCTL Dr. Wafa Hassan and then President of ALTA, Dr. Ademoyo Ademoyo, the entire membership of the Boards, the Delegate Assembly members, our JNCOLCTL Editor, Dr. Danko Sipka, our JALTA  editor, Dr. Jonathan Choti, presenters, plenary speakers and indeed all of our conference attendees. Our gratitude also goes to the Holiday Inn, Schaumburg for their professional service and excellent catering – Anju, Liz, Demetrio and team, thank you!


The 2018 NCOLCTL/ALTA Conference will be held from April 20-22, 2018 with a pre-conference workshop on April 19 at the Hyatt Regency Dulles, 2300 Dulles Corner Boulevard, Herndon, VA 20171, USA. Our theme is "LCTL Education in the US: From Pre-K to Global Professional". Submit your proposal online at  and we look forward to seeing you at the next conference!