"shared solutions for common problems"

Activities and Accomplishments

Before NCOLCTL was established in 1990 there were no institutional mechanisms that worked to integrate issues important to less commonly taught languages into national systems of foreign language instruction in the United States. Since being established, NCOLCTL has carried out a variety of activities to raise the awareness of the importance of less commonly taught languages and to build a framework for the development of professions focusing on the teaching and learning of these languages.

NCOLCTL was established in 1990 with funding from the Ford Foundation to become a national alliances of organizations representing individual languages and language groups of less commonly taught languages in the United States. The mission of this alliance was to directly benefit the growth and development of these language-specific programs. Once established, NCOLCTL, in collaboration with the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC), worked to develop a conceptual framework designed to help sustain and enrich LCTL programs in American academic institutions by sharing resources and expertise across the country.


Website: This interactive website, serves as a medium for NCOLCTL members to communicate on critical issues and to share information, and also as an easily accessible source of information important to the growth and development of NCOLCTL member organizations and the field of less commonly taught languages.

Annual Conference: Since October of 1997, NCOLCTL has sponsored an annual Conference. This Annual Conference was based in Madison, Wisconsin from 2009 to 2012. Since August of 2012, NCOLCTL Annual Conference has been prepared and administered by its office in Bloomington, Indiana.

NCOLCTL is also involved in the following on-going activities:

  • planning for and establishing a national policy for building the national capacity for the study of the LCTLs;
  • conducting research to promote and facilitate the learning and teaching of the LCTLs;
  • enhancing the capacity of existing LCTL national associations, and organizing new ones;
  • establishing a system for networking and communication among member organizations, and facilitating their collective efforts to solve problems in the LCTL field;
  • developing language learning frameworks to guide teacher training, curriculum design, materials development, and seek ways to address problems of articulation among different levels of the American educational system;
  • working, on behalf of the members, with government agencies, foundations, and the general foreign language community on policy issues and to seek funding to establish effective standards for the less commonly taught language field;
  • collecting data on the need, demand, and supply capacity of individual less commonly taught languages; and
  • fostering national and international linkages within and across the various language areas, as well as with domestic and international user groups.


The National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) was inaugurated during the 4th Annual Conference of the Less Commonly Taught Languages held at the National Foreign Language Center on May 18, 1990. Eleven organizations formed the founding members of NCOLCTL. Since its founding NCOLCTL has been engaged in a variety of activities designed to strengthen the teaching and learning of less commonly taught languages in the United States. Below is a brief summary of the Council's main accomplishments organized by the following categories:

Annual Assemblies / Meetings / Conferences

First Annual Assembly, May 1990

Second Annual Assembly, May 1991

Third Annual Assembly, September 1992

Fourth Annual Assembly, June 1993

Language Learning Framework Meeting, May 1993

Fifth Annual Assembly, May 1994

Sixth Annual Assembly, April 1995

Language Learning Framework Meeting, April 1995

National Conference, January 1996

Seventh Annual Assembly, March 1997

First Annual Conference on LCTLs and Eighth Annual Assembly, October, 1997

Second Annual Conference on LCTLs and Ninth Annual Assembly, September, 1998

Third Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Tenth Annual Assembly, May, 2000

Fourth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Eleventh Annual Assembly, April, 2001

Fifth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Twelfth Annual Assembly, April, 2002

Sixth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Thirteenth Annual Assembly, April 2003

Seventh Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Fourteenth Annual Assembly, April - May 2004

Eighth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Fifteenth Annual Assembly, April 2005

Ninth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Sixteenth Annual Assembly, April 2006

Tenth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Seventeenth Annual Assembly, April 2007

Eleventh Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Eighteenth Annual Assembly, April 2008

Twelth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Nineteenth Annual Assembly, April 2009

Thirteenth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Twenteeth Annual Assembly, April 2010

Fourteenth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Twenty First Annual Assembly, April 2011

Fifteenth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Twenty Second Annual Assembly, April 2012

Sixteenth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Twenty Third Annual Assembly, April 2013

Seventeenth Annual NCOLCTL Conference and Twenty Fourth Annual Assembly, April 2014

Teacher Training

One of NCOLCTL's goals is to strengthen the teaching of less commonly taught languages. As part of achieving this goal, NCOLCTL organizes teacher training seminars.

In July 1990 a Teacher Training Workshop at Bryn Mawr was organized. This workshop provided an opportunity for experienced program managers to plan a pilot workshop for teacher trainers. It was attended by key figures in teacher training in foreign languages, and particularly in the LCTLs.

A Teacher Training Seminar was also convened at Bryn Mawr at June 22-28, 1991. This meeting resulted in the formation of a conceptual framework and the development of practical knowledge to enable program managers and teacher trainers to create new designs and formats for teacher training at their home institutions. It also enabled them to assume responsibility for organizing workshops at other summer language training institutes conducted for some of the less commonly taught languages. One of the key outcomes of this work was an understanding that the LCTL Fields share many common problems which might be best addressed through collective solutions in the form of a generic, learner-centered and learner-driven language learning frameworks (LLFs). It was also agreed that the generic LLFs could be adapted and modified to develop language-specific LLFs.

Data Collection

The National Task Force on Data Collection, during a meeting held September 22-23, 1990, identified the kind of information needed for the LCTL field. The instruments and templates resulting from this meeting have served as a model for NCOLCTL to guide efforts of the member organizations to collect data on resources and process to enhance the learning of less commonly taught foreign languages.

NCOLCTL also designed and developed a resources overview packet, including a listing and sample of widely used and recommended texts, short statements from the authors summarizing the goals and merits of their books along with users' comments, sample curriculum outlines, and the names of individuals willing to serve as curriculum consultants.

NCOLCTL is also engaged in developing electronic databases for the LCTL fields, that includes information on members name, addresses, phone and fax numbers,e-mail addresses, areas of academic specialization, etc.

One of the more important resources developed by NCOLCTL and its members are the twenty-one Language Learning Frameworks that have become a central driving force in efforts to strengthen the member's language fields. The LLFs provide key leverage points for change and improvement and are based on field-wide agreements as to the language learning goals for learners of a given language, as well as to agreement on the most effective design of the language learning environments necessary to achieve these goals. Thus, the LLFs are unique in that they strive to develop field-wide standards for the actual learning of a given language rather than merely standards for individual learner outcomes which constitute a critical component that has been addressed for some time in language education. They are intended to serve as the basis for curriculum development, the development of instructional materialism, the use of new language learning technologies, and the training of teachers and teacher trainers. NCOLCTL believes that this collective effort to develop such frameworks is unprecedented in the learning and teaching of LCTLs and may well have an impact on the way all languages are taught in the future.

Support to Member Organizations

Funds raised by NCOLCTL have been allocated to the original members to strengthen their role in the field of less commonly taught languages in ways that would not be possible under normal circumstances.

New Organization Building

NCOLCTL has been instrumental in founding national teachers organizations in language fields for which there were none. The following organizations were created through NCOLCTL efforts:

Formation of the African Languages Teachers Association (ALTA) in 1990.

Formation of the South Asian Languages Teachers Association (SALTA) in 1993.

Formation of the American Association of Teachers of Korean (AATK) in 1994.

Formation of the Cantonese Language Association (CLA) in 1994.

Networking & Publication

To facilitate communication and networking among NCOLCTL members, an electronic bulletin board system (BBS) was developed. This system was replaced by the Internet-based NCOLCTL Website.

To promote the sharing of information, the Council published the NCOLCTL Newsletter in 1994, the NCOLCTL Bulletin in 1995, and the NCOLCTL Newsletter annually since 2000.