How to Drum Up Interest in Your Foreign Language Program

Foreign language programs across the country suffer from low enrollment. Once students get past their required credits, they often choose not to pursue it. The big question is, why? And how do you drum up more interest in your foreign language program? It’s not always easy, but it is vital that you have a plan for the long-term success of your school’s foreign language classes. Let’s take a look at some ways you can help not only maintain the viability of your foreign language program but help it to thrive.

A foreign language is practical.

Perhaps the best way to keep your foreign language program alive and thriving is to show students the practicality of learning a foreign language. Students in suburban and rural areas, or in other parts of the country, don’t always come into contact with foreign languages on a regular basis. They’ve never had an opportunity to use a foreign language, and unless they’re planning on some sort of international career, they likely don’t see any reason to learn a foreign language.

For these students to consider pursuing language classes, they need to understand the importance of being able to speak and read another language fluently. Whenever possible, show them concrete situations in which they would be able to use their language skills. They want to interact and communicate with people of different countries and cultures.

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One way to do this is to set up an exchange program at your school. Invite foreign students to study at your school for a school year and live with some of the families of your students. The following year, those students would host a few of yours in their homes for a school year. It doesn’t have to be this big of a commitment, either. Consider doing a summer exchange, or even a two-week exchange. In the very least, your school can always welcome foreign students, without necessarily having to send any of its own students abroad in an exchange.

An even easier way to do this, and one which will still encourage students to talk about your class, is to invite a guest speaker whose primary language is the one you teach. Teaching French? Invite a French-Canadian hockey player to talk to your class. Teaching Chinese? Invite the chef or owner of a popular Chinese restaurant in your area to your school.

A foreign language pertains to me.

There’s a lot of talk about the “me culture” and now, the “I culture”. Regardless of what you call it, teenagers tend to be interested in…well… themselves. Rather than setting up role-play situations where your students act out, in a foreign language, two people in a café or a market, get them talking about things that really matter to them. Ask yourself, what are my students interested in? What do they talk about on a regular basis? Talk about the same things in your class—in the language you’re teaching.

Are they always on Facebook? Open up a Spanish-language Facebook account and learn lots of new vocabulary. Does a student in your class have an unusual pet? Invite him or her to give a presentation about the animal in the language that he or she is learning. Create a profile questionnaire and have your students use their language skills to answer questions about themselves—the funnier and more interesting, the better!

Continue along this thread by spicing up your program with language-learning activities that your students do themselves in their free time. Instead of a dictation, give your students the lyrics of a popular song from your country of choice with missing words. Play the song for them and have them fill in the blanks. Or watch a movie that they already know and love—a Disney film, for example—in the language that you’re teaching. They’ll already know the story line and are more likely to pick up on phrases that they’ll retain.

A foreign language is dynamic.

Make your program not just a language study, but also a culture study. Kids are so interested in “how things are done” in a different place. Talk about idioms and proverbs. Talk about customs that they’ll find funny or endearing. If you’re teaching Japanese, replace the desks in your classroom with low tables and cushions and have your students serve each other a traditional tea. If you’re teaching German, introduce classical composers and the often fascinating stories surrounding their childhoods and musical training.

The foreign language program has perks.

One of the most effective ways to implement all of the strategies above—and to get kids talking about your foreign language program before and after going through it themselves—is to take your students on an educational student trip. There’s nothing more exciting than traveling abroad with your peers, and educational travel has a way of impacting young minds in a very positive and unforgettable way. In a matter of a week, you can show your students in the most concrete way how practical and fun learning a foreign language is. Trips abroad often inspire students to push beyond their previously constructed barriers and to think globally.

In short, educational student travel opens the door to new possibilities, both for your students and for your foreign language program.

Ready to explore the possibilities? Contact us today.