Language Teaching in the 21st Century

As language programs in American schools continue to crumble, more and more private language schools – actual businesses – will appear in American society.

These language schools will exist for one reason – they will help American companies grow profits from a better fit into the global economy. Random education of children in languages will not continue because the funding won’t be there and because it has never merited the funding in the first place.
The tightening of the belt of American society will, within the decade, result in a complete overall, a near elimination, of language teaching jobs in secondary schools and universities as we know them to exist now in 2015.

Of course, English will become the universal language at the management level in the emerging global business models, but the most successful companies will employ workers who are fluent in the language of the culture with which they do business.

Therefore, there will be an increasingly pronounced need for at least some of the workers in any company to have at least some degree of fluency in the targeted language.

Indeed, profits will depend in part on the existence of such employees. In addition, there will be a vastly increased need for bilingual soldiers in the U.S. Armed Services, who will be paid larger salaries for their skills.

A third group need will be regular citizens who realize, slowly, that the language schools indeed produce results, that they work in leading to fluency, literacy and true acquisition.

This last group will be the slowest to accept the new possibilities in the new kind of language acquisition because most of them will have experienced the slashing and humiliating message in current secondary school language programs that they can’t learn a language and that when it comes to languages, even if they are motivated and have a PhD in another field, they simply can’t do it.

The big historical failing, indeed, has been that of language teachers in secondary schools and universities. They have not served America. They have served neither the students in their buildings nor the business sector, nor have they served the military.

This colossal failure is most unfortunate because it affects not only student achievement and confidence, but also America’s economic engine, as well as the success of its military, which has been compelled to create their own internal language machine because they are not exactly in a position to play around when it comes to language acquisition.

The particular beauty of the way things will play out in the military is that, with the new methods just emerging, far less hours will be required to accomplish the mission of making soldiers competent in the language than were required in the past.

In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that soldiers will gain the skills they need to accomplish their missions more than one thousand time faster than was required in the last century with the old methods of language instruction.

Had they been working in an actual business, the secondary school and university language instructors responsible for this professional shame and insult to their country’s best interests would have been abruptly fired after only one or two months of employment for failure to get the job done.
Those wasted hours of manpower, millions of them, are now over because of the new way of teaching languages that is cropping up like little flowers here and there in the desert and joke that has been the American foreign language scene over the past century.

As a result of this failure, people naturally turned to computer programs like Rosetta Stone in an effort to fill the void. However, such programs, which rely on technology to deliver the language product, are rapidly proving to be as ineffective and as much as a farce as the methods of instruction that preceded them.

The same companies that have published the books, aware now that their products don’t work and never have worked (they fully knew that), have shifted their attention to selling computer technology with the same miserable results. They are as snake oil salesmen hawking their wares by the side of the road to unaware customers.

This abject failure to produce results via the book or through the use of computers is because the human element so crucial to genuine language acquisition is completely missing in both the book and the technology models. Language instruction textbooks and software are now quickly becoming thoroughly rejected by the American public because they don’t work.

Motivated individuals, corporations, and the military are now turning away from the false promises of the book/computer technology companies as they now turn in earnest to real human beings to teach them languages.

The new human ways work, but only if the new language instructors of the 21st century have been properly trained in the new methods that have just become available to us in the past few years and about which most Americans are ignorant.

Make no mistake. People who intend to make their livings as teachers of language in the 21st century, in order to successfully meet the needs of the American public, the corporations, and the military, will need new skills.

The first skill required of these individuals, of course, will be fluency in the target language. The second, the one that is finally coming into play in the discussion of best practices in language instruction, will be the human skills needed to actually make the language come alive in a real way with real results for the learner, the corporation or the branch of military service.

Dr. Stephen Krashen has stated that “robots don’t converse”. The return to actual human contact in language instruction, as opposed to the utterly false promises offered by books and computer software, will be part of a larger humanization of the entire planet. As the new century unfolds, human values will trump those of machines and people will actually learn.

It is comprehension based language instruction that will get the new, unexpected and entirely welcome results described above. It is comprehension based language instruction that will now take its place at the forefront of the emerging language consumption culture. Why? Because comprehension based language instruction works.

If a person has fluency in any language, and lacks only the ability to teach it successfully, then they must work hard now to master comprehension based instruction.

We now know what works, so the next question becomes “Who will work to learn comprehension based language instruction?” The answer is not the hapless fake language teachers of the past. They will lose their job safety net soon enough. Many are currently in the process of losing their jobs as the handwriting emerges more and more on the walls of our society that America has been sold a bill of goods when it comes to learning languages.
The good news is that many of these old kinds of teachers have already quit the profession amidst the current reshaping of American schools. But that is just the beginning. The fact is that there will be no more language teaching jobs in the United States for people who can’t get the job done.
The language instruction jobs of the future will go directly to those who can deliver the language product to the individuals, the businesses, and to the military who increasingly require them for the overall success of their particular interests.

Those who have mastered comprehension based instruction will be the ones who succeed in the new business model, especially. Those without the necessary new talent who are now trying to hang on to their jobs in a secondary or university environment will soon be exposed for their lack of ability to turn out a product.

It seems shocking that such a tried and true profession as language teaching is about to hit the dust with such a great impact. It is nevertheless true. Language teachers in American schools can no longer drain public funds with no results. That is because the funds won’t be there.

Language teaching in America, in fact, will no longer even be connected to schools, books or to the fake promise of technology, Rather, it will be provided by those who master comprehension based instruction, which is the real language product of the 21st century.

Language professionals who have no training in comprehension based instruction should probably get ready to join the bread lines, because that’s where they are heading. A new day is here.