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CARLA Celebrates its 20th Anniversary!
Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat, famously made the point that the U.S. must educate its citizens in new ways to deal with growing forces of globalization in the 21st century. Increasingly it seems Americans are competitively disadvantaged by our own monolingualism, as more and more people around the globe speak English and at least one other language. This is the context in which the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) pursues its mission to improve the quality of language learning and teaching in the United States.
CARLA began 20 years ago as a collaborative gleam in the eyes of some visionary University of Minnesota faculty. Working together across the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), and the Graduate School, they established CARLA in 1993 under the umbrella of the Institute of International Studies (now the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance) to house two major federal grants. One was a foundational Title VI national Language Resource Center (LRC) grant to support a coordinated program of research, training, development, and dissemination to improve the nation’s capacity for language learning and teaching, and the other was a shorter-term but important education grant to support articulated foreign language instruction in the state.
CARLA THEN—A skeletal staff was hired, and space was found in a broom closet (which flooded from time to time) in the basement of an old building on campus. In time, CARLA found a more appropriate home, built an active network of dedicated faculty/instructors, and filled out the staff, several of whom are still with the center. In the early days, CARLA offered no summer institutes, nor did it have much of a web presence, but it was full of great ideas and enthusiasm!
CARLA NOW—CARLA is currently one of 15 national LRCs. In partnership with CLA and CEHD faculty, students, and staff, it has become a national leader in second language education. During the past year alone, CARLA has:
- offered its 18th annual intensive summer institute program integrating theory and practice for language educators
- hosted a constantly growing website with well over a million visitors annually
- organized a major international conference on language immersion education with 684 participants from 38 states, DC, and 18 countries
- offered its first completely online course on how to teach critical languages online
- conducted research on proficiency orientation in LCTL programs, French writing development during study abroad, and pronunciation difficulties of learners of Persian
- awarded its 25th CARLA Fellowship to a top graduate student in second language studies
Over the last 20 years, CARLA could not have accomplished all of this and more without the support of colleagues and friends from the University of Minnesota, the state of Minnesota, and beyond. Thank you for supporting CARLA in its mission to improve the nation’s capacity to teach and learn foreign languages and cultures effectively. With your support, CARLA will continue this work well into the “flat world” of the 21st century.
Elaine Tarone, Director