Thursday, December 14, 2017

Report on the 2017 COTSEAL Conference on Southeast Asian Teaching: New Directions

An historic meeting of the Southeast Asian language teachers took place this year at the Conference on Southeast Asian Teaching: New Directions, on September 8-10, 2017 at Cornell University. 

The conference was hosted by Cornell’s Southeast Asian Program, and co-sponsored by Asian Studies and the Language Resource Center. This event is also part of a series of professional workshops that began at the University of California, Berkeley in 2015, which was co-sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies of University of California, Los Angeles, and the 2016 meeting, held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016, and sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. All the three workshops were co-sponsored by Henry Luce Foundation. About 70 people registered to participate in the 2017 conference. It was one of a kind conference that included all the major stakeholders involved in the teaching of SEA languages in the U.S, namely, language teachers, academics, and grant organizations and administrators. The event not only served as a catalyst to foster a stronger sense of camaraderie among all language teachers, and collaboration among different universities, but also strengthen the field of teaching SEA languages.

The conference was a dynamic event packed with various activities that allowed participants to be involved and engaged. After the registration and welcoming lunch, the conference kicked off with the meetings of specific language groups. including Burmese, Khmer, Indonesian, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. In this session, the participants discussed issues of relevance to their language of instruction and their interests. The next event was a thematic session in which the SEA language faculty at Cornell University shared their insights on implementing a one-credit hour jumpstart course. The highlight of the day was the keynote address entitled “Culturally Speaking: Intercultural Competence and Attaining Advanced L2 Proficiency” by Dr. Thomas Garza, UT Regents and University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin.

The second day began with a session of language specific meetings followed by a series of presentations on COTSEAL Materials Development Project: Reflections. The COTSEAL content-based materials development project has been up and running since 2015 and supervised by Dr. Erlin Bernard, Pedagogy Coordinator for Less Commonly Taught Languages, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The afternoon section exhibited poster presentations, a follow up workshop by Dr. Thomas Garza on one of the most recent trends, backward curriculum design, and a series of presentations on the teaching of SEA languages. Dr. Ellen Rafferty, Emerita Professor of Indonesian Language and Culture, University of Wisconsin and the Language Director of Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI), ended the second day by giving a keynote address titled “Challenges and Potentials in the field of Southeast Asian Language Teaching: Reflections from SEASSI”. All participants were then invited to the dinner accompanied by live musical performances.

The conference ended on the third day after a sequence of presentations focusing on distance learning, especially Tagalog, Thai and Khmer, and different rounds of reports from six language groups. The representatives from all language groups shared their working goals and showed their commitment to the idea of institutionalizing the professional language organizations.

This was followed by a strategic meeting involving the directors or representatives from 10 different National Southeast Asian Centers. The other participants also included 8 representatives from NON-NRC institutions that offer SEA languages, representatives from different language groups, COTSEAL president, Dr. Juliana Wijaya and SEASSI Director and Language Director, Dr. Mike Cullinane, and Prof. Ellen Rafferty. Included among the participants was Ms. Helena Kolenda from Henry Luce Foundation and Prof. Katherine Bowie, the President of the Association of Asian Studies, who attended the meeting to address issues related to funding and identify areas of collaboration.

Follow this link for photos from the 2017 conference.

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