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Faculty, staff, and graduate students gathered for a retreat in October 2003 at the beginning of CARLA's tenth anniversary year. CARLA director Elaine Tarone and LRC director Andrew Cohen appear in the back row, far right.
CARLA is ten
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) celebrates a decade of impact
By Gayla Marty
From Brief, May 26, 2004
If you know a child learning a second language in Minnesota, you probably know someone who's been touched by CARLA.
CARLA is not a person or a computer program. It's the mercifully short acronym for a University of Minnesota center with a long name and a great personality--something like your favorite teacher--smart, global, and interested in you and how you learn.
If you're a foreign language student in kindergarten through grade 12, it's very likely that your teacher has taken classes through CARLA on topics like "culture and language learning" or "second language acquisition" that help you master your new language.
If you're a foreign language student in high school, your school may be using assessments developed at CARLA that will help you make a smooth jump from high school to college language classes.
If you're a college student going abroad--or an adult traveler, for that matter--you can get a copy of CARLA's Maximizing Study Abroad to prepare for your trip based on your own learning style, to learn culture and language more effectively while you're abroad, and to figure out how to keep it going when you get back.
"CARLA's ongoing support for research and outreach initiatives have uniquely positioned the University of Minnesota as an internationally regarded leader in the field of language immersion education," says Tara Fortune, coordinator of immersion projects at CARLA. "More and more school districts in Minnesota and around the country are opting for immersion. Meeting the professional development needs of these dedicated immersion educators is our passion and our privilege--and CARLA is our lifeline."
If you want to learn a less-commonly-taught language--say, Norwegian or Hindi--anything other than English, French, German, or Spanish--you can find out where it is taught on CARLA's online LCTL database.
If you're a parent or know a child in a language immersion school, or might want to start an immersion school, you can subscribe to a newsletter for immersion school teachers and parents.
If you're a language teacher, CARLA really was made for you. You can get classroom resources to assess students' language proficiency from a CARLA Web site. You can get help creating content-based lessons or units that use technology to enhance learning. You can get resources for working with students who have limited English proficiency. And you can go to a summer workshop to learn more skills from other teachers as well as world experts.
But these give you only a tip of the iceberg.
In the 10 years since CARLA opened at the Twin Cities campus, CARLA has produced dozens of publications, including working papers, assessment instruments, and handbooks. It has grown from four to a host of programs and services, most making the link between research on language learning and second-language teaching.
"Whenever and wherever I meet with teachers, I feel like I have instant credibility with them because of CARLA," says Ursula Lentz, who works with assessment and coordinates the state-supported Quality Teaching Network. "Recently, a principal sought me out at a meeting to tell me 'CARLA is the best,' while making a thumbs-up sign. It's almost intimidating to know that there are such high expectations, but a wonderful opportunity."
CARLA has secured more than $6.3 million in grant funding through 17 different grants scheduled until 2007. It's gone from being one of five national language resource centers in 1993 to one of 14 today--a growth due in part to the success of CARLA and its peer pioneers. CARLA touches language teachers, learners, and acquisition researchers with a surprising reach.
"It has been my privilege over the last ten years to see the way in which CARLA projects have had a real impact on teachers and students throughout Minnesota and beyond," says CARLA director and professor Elaine Tarone. "It's nice to have our projects become models for other work done around the country."
"I knew CARLA's activities were well-known around Minnesota, but I have been surprised to see how well known the center is around the world," says Tarone. "For example, last year when I was a plenary speaker at an English conference held in a rather quiet corner of Spain, I was astounded at the number of participants whose first comment to me was, 'Oh! You're from CARLA!'"
CARLA has consistently drawn upon the work of faculty members in two colleges--the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), where most languages are taught, and the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), where K-12 teachers are prepared.
"It has been a real pleasure for me over these last years to provide graduate students from CLA and CEHD an opportunity to participate in LRC-funded action projects of many kinds, and occasionally research, as well," says Andrew Cohen, professor and director of CARLA's Language Resource Center (LRC). "Rather than just reading about it in the literature, our students have gotten to see for themselves the positive impact of LRC projects on language teaching and learning in the community."
In addition, General College provided support and a home for CARLA for part of its life in recognition of common goals. The administrative home of CARLA has been the University-wide Office of International Programs (OIP).
When CARLA concluded an academic year of marking more than a decade of hard work and success last month, the celebration was attended by vice president Robert Jones, CEHD dean Steven Yussen, General College dean David Taylor, CLA associate dean Arlene Carney, OIP director Eugene Allen, CARLA faculty and staff, and community members who regularly work with the center.
CARLA has inhabited several spaces on campus, from Nicholson Hall to the U Tech Center in Dinkytown to Appleby Hall. Today it resides in 619 Heller Hall on the west bank in Minneapolis. For more information, see http://www.carla.umn.edu.