Message from the President
December 24, 2015

Dear Members and Friends:

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the president of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, USA, for 2016. I joined the CLTA in 1995. In 2011, I was elected to serve on the Board of Directors, which provided me with opportunities to address the needs of the organization by working closely with my fellow colleagues from different disciplines. In the past four years, I witnessed the growth of this organization and the diligence of our members in promoting Chinese language and culture studies.

On Sept. 25, 2015, in a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Obama announced the launch of “One Million Strong,” an initiative that aims to bring the total number of stateside learners of Mandarin Chinese to one million by the year 2020. President Obama pointed out that “If our countries are going to do more together around the world, then speaking each other’s language, truly understanding each other, is a good place to start.”

We, as Chinese educators working at the forefront of the field, are very excited by the President’s announcement. Meanwhile, we also envision great challenges ahead. In April 2015, Dr. Shuhan Wang submitted a report, State of the Chinese language field in the United States: Reaching a tipping point, to the College Board. The report states that at least 300,000 students enrolled Chinese classes in K-12 schools, heritage language schools, and Startalk summer programs in 2015. According to statistics provided by the Modern Language Association, by 2013 enrollments in college Chinese courses reached 61,055. This means that we have approximately 360,000 students who are learning Chinese nationwide. To increase enrollment to one million within the next five years, much work is needed in the following areas:

  • To increase awareness of the urgency of promoting Chinese language among local communities, as we need thousands of parents supporting their children in learning this critical language;
  • To develop nationally accepted language standards, curricular models, and assessment criteria to gauge the K-16 Chinese language education taking place in different public and private educational settings;
  • To accelerate teacher education so that we can triple the number of Chinese language teachers to meet the demands of the increasing number of students. Under globalization, teacher education must emphasize training that produces reflective and culturally responsive teachers;
  • To support the development and implementation of technology platforms to meet the challenge of paperless learning in the digital age and to ensure accessibility of Chinese language teaching in remote and underserved communities around the country.

In order to meet these challenges, together with the CLTA board and with support from our members, I will aim to accomplish the following key tasks in 2016:

  • Establishing Special Interest Groups within the organization. I hope the CLTA can be the academic home of more and more Chinese educators who are experts in particular areas. Special interest groups will provide a platform for teachers, scholars, and administrators to discuss academic topics or problems in breadth and depth. As part of teacher training and professional development efforts, I hope the groups will share their research and collaborative products on the CLTA website to benefit Chinese teachers nationwide.
  • Expanding membership. The organization has been growing at a fast pace in recent years, so far we have nearly 900 members; as the Chinese saying goes, 众人拾柴火焰高 (When everybody adds fuel, the flames rise high). We believe that, with a critical mass, great things can be achieved. In addition to university faculty, this organization particularly needs more white American scholars, lecturers from the higher education sector, and K-12 teachers to contribute their talent and wisdom and to form academic synergy within the organization. As the number of Chinese educators will triple within the next five years, it is important that this organization attract many more members to work for our common goals.
  • Strengthening academic publications. We are pleased that the CLTA journal will be published by the John Benjamins Publishing Company with a new name and new look in 2016. I wish to thank Professor Hongyin Tao, for his efforts in making this happen. We hope this change will increase the journal’s international visibility. In 2015, under the leadership of Professor Annie Zeng, the journal of K-12 Chinese Language Teaching was launched. We want this journal to reach a wide audience of K-12 teachers and meet their professional needs. In 2016, we plan to 8 publish CLTA Monograph 5, which is a collection of state-of-the-art empirical research conducted by CLTA members to inform our classroom practice. The last issue was published by the University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center in 2010.
  • Planning the CLTA Third International Symposium. The Second International Symposium of Chinese Teaching and Learning will be held at the University of Maryland from April 1–3, 2016. I wish to thank Professor Nan Jiang, for his efforts in hosting this Symposium and to the Symposium Organizing Committee for their hard work on conference preparation. In order to provide more opportunities for our members to share their research and teaching practice and to promote academic exchange with international scholars, we will continue to hold the CLTA International Symposium.

Let me conclude my message by returning to the “One million” mission. One million is a big number; however, it is under 2% of the total number of U.S. students. In fall 2015, there were about 55 million students studying in schools and colleges in the States. We certainly hope there will be more than one million Americans studying Chinese after 2020, thus, extending our mission beyond “one million.” We have a long way to go. Together, we will transform challenges into opportunities. Let us get ready and move forward.

Best wishes for a fruitful 2016!

Helen H. Shen
President of CLTA-USA
The University of Iowa