The expert that we chose to meet with was Professor Carlos Pio; he is a faculty member of the Hispanic and Portuguese studies at the University of Pennsylvania where he does research on Iberian and French medieval and early modern literature. He is also very passionate about teaching languages demonstrated by his work in Penn language courses and on a new Portuguese textbook that seeks to be inclusionary for all, even those from various marginalized groups. That is why we saw him as the perfect "expert" to provide us with feedback on the work that we have done so far and insights on what we should be considering as we further develop our solution. We had a great time meeting with him and so we would like to share with you all our take-aways.

What Question and Solution Did You Pitch to Him?

An important question, of course, the question that we presented to him was the one that we have written extensively about; as a refresher it is: How can we best reform the American foreign language curriculum to adequately equip students to comfortably and effectively articulate a language other than English using modern findings and models of the neuroscience of language? As far as what we told him our solution is, we opted for our two-pronged approach where 1. we are targeting our foreign language curriculum to younger, elementary school students to take advantage of their neural malleability in learning a new language and to allow students to benefit from the cognitive benefits that come from becoming bilingual at a young age and 2. are using a communicative-based immersion approach that, through strategies such as teaching math in a non-English language and requiring our pupils to have class conversations in the language that they are trying to learn, would best enable students to be able to have fluent and comfortable conversations in a non-English language when they leave the class.

What was Professor Pio's feedback?

All of Professor Pio's feedback was great and gave us a lot to think about and consider. We felt that the three main points and what they entailed were:

  • Thoughts on Immersion
    1. Make sure to teaching your immersive foreign curriculum at least 4-5 times a week in order to get the full benefits from it.
    2. Really be sure to apply your curriculum to real-life situations. Otherwise, there will not be any retention. It can be useful to relate things back to the lives of the students.
    3. Immersion helps students make associations in their head that is super useful for retention.
  • Teaching Approaches
    1. Just to be sure to keep in mind that you will have to go over grammar at some point. Communicate that and plan for it.
    2. Creating daily and 2-3 short-term goals can help students not feel like they need to learn the entire language in that school year.
    3. Using media like movies, videos, and music can be very helpful. Music especially due to its repetitive nature.
    4. Recylcing information helps with reinforcement.
  • General things about language learning to keep mind
    1. No need to hammer home vocabularly because that gets developed over time.
    2. Communicative approach is most effect when students get the ability to read.
    3. Be sure to remember that language acquisition for children is very different than that of adults. Take advantage of the natural learning that kids can do since they are not being hyper-critical of structure like adults are.

Moving Forward

Evidently, Professor Pio's feedback gives us a lot to think about as we begin prototyping our solution. We really feel that thanks to his help, we are in a better position to consider many of the outside forces at play that we will have to contend with when implementing our solution. Thus, we look forward to seeing where our work leads us.