Rationale and Objectives:
United States educational policies and public attitudes have often reflected a narrow view of language needs and rights. The purpose of the Foreign Language Partnership (FLPP) was to begin to counteract prevailing “English Only” attitudes by facilitating language acquisition among university students learning foreign languages while maintaining native language and raising self-esteem among immigrants. A pilot version of the FLPP at the University of Hawai‘i was funded for two years by the NFLRC. The purposes of the project were three-fold: 1) to address the low academic achievement among historically under-served minority students; 2) to address low oral and literacy proficiency among university level foreign language learners; and 3) to address national needs for a bilingual work force for international business purposes.
“At risk” high school students who are native speakers of less commonly-taught languages were hired and trained to provide tutoring for university foreign language students, focusing on communicative language use. The at-risk high school students supplemented and enriched the foreign language instruction the University provides by providing one-on-one and small group tutoring (at no cost to the university students), as well as occasional target language experiences such as immigrant community/family events. In the 1994-95 academic year, five native speakers of Ilokano and Tagalog from a Honolulu area high school tutored five university students; in the 1995-96 academic year, four native speakers of Ilokano and two Samoan native speakers from the same school tutored eleven university students. The high school tutors participated in a training course covering sociolinguistic and tutoring strategies prior to beginning their work. The demand for tutoring was overwhelming and only a small fraction of interested university students could be accommodated. In addition, other high school students have expressed interest in teaching their languages to university students. Clearly this program is filling a need on both sides. The sessions generally lasted from an hour to an hour and a half, and consisted of working on the university students’ homework as well as other, more communicative and culturally relevant activities. These activities including dancing (the Samoan groups) and talking about cultural activities such as holidays. Several times groups sought out situations in which they would use the target language, as when they went to Filipino restaurants and ordered food using Tagalog. Finally, participants often used the time to gossip in the target language or a mixture of the target language and English.
One of the benefits of the program was that the tutors’ language skills increased, in both their own language and in English. In the case of their native language, tutors developed metalinguistic awareness, grammar rules, and the semantics of the language. In the case of English, they became more confident, acquired new vocabulary, and generally developed their fluency. The tutors were able to maintain good grades in high school while they worked in the program, and although several of them had already some college plans, they gained more confidence in their ability to attend and succeed in college. They also felt that they became more responsible and mature due to the nature of the job. Tutors all expressed pride in their first language, and pride in helping others, especially college students, learn it. They also viewed being bilingual (or multilingual) as an advantage, both personally and economically. They reported using their own language both at home and in the public domain when they are with other native speakers, and feel this is appropriate. They also feel that English is important, and use it when they are with people who do not speak their language. Since they feel it i