Origins of AFLA

Origins of AFLA:

from “Foreign Languages at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks  1960-1994”

by Wolf Hollerbach

In 1967, Dr. Bruce Gordon, chair of the University of Alaska Foreign Language Department, founded the Alaska Foreign Language Association, AFLA.  Its aim has always been to bring teachers at all levels together, to inform them of significant developments in foreign language pedagogy, to help them improve their performance through workshops, materials, contacts, to represent them before the general public, and to help them formulate positions on issues that affect them and their students.  In the fall of 1967, Dr. Gordon represented AFLA and the University of Alaska on the constituent assembly that created the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, ACTFL, the off-shoot of the much older Modern Language Association.

Between 1975-1978, “AFLA had fallen victim to the pessimism of the time and ceased to function as a state-wide body. In 1979, Doug Bruce, Fairbanks high school Spanish and German teacher and Dr. Wolf Hollerbach, UAF professor of French and Spanish, went to Anchorage to try and apply CPR to the comatose body. Anchorage teachers had been meeting locally.  Doug and Wolf succeeded in resuscitating the patient and a one year interim co-presidency was established: Janice Gullickson of Anchorage and Wolf were elected to preside over the recovery and a renewed association for the eighties.”

1981: State Grant: Charlie Parr, UAF Professor of Russian and German and a member of the Alaska State Senate, helped procure a special legislative grant of $45,000 for AFLA. It was used for three purposes:

  1. Produce a complete report on the state of foreign language instruction in Alaska. (The partial position of State Supervisor of FL in the Department of Education had recently been abolished.) Lesley Korvola produced a 48 page report in December, 1983.
  2. Organize in conjunction with UAF Summer Sessions, an intensive institute for teachers of French and Spanish June 3-27, 1982. Out of town participants received a stipend.  Courses emphasized advanced language instruction and use, applied syntax, culture and methods.
  3. Organize annual state-wide conferences to acquaint teachers with the developments in foreign language methodology and acquisition theory.  Since 1983, AFLA has brought language experts to its conferences. Some grant money helped with travel stipends and local teachers were encouraged to open their homes to house out-of-town teachers.

The grant and the activities funded by it invigorated the foreign language teaching profession in Alaska. It familiarized teachers with the profound changes in language teaching and research, created networks for teachers, helped rural teachers overcome their isolation, and inspired teachers to explore various avenues of professional development: graduate studies, summer study abroad, taking groups of students abroad, etc. It convinced the state Department of Education to provide some funding for foreign languages, maintain records on enrollments and teachers, help improve instruction with guidelines from elementary through high school as well as bring language instructors together from all levels kindergarten through college in pursuit of a common goal.

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