BOULDER, Colo. – Established in 1998, the Modified Foreign Languages Program (MFLP) initially focused on speech pathology and language learning disabilities. Over time, the program evolved into its current form: a collaboration between CU Boulder’s Anderson Language and Technology Center (ALTEC) and CU's Spanish and Portuguese Department to offer modified Spanish courses.

Currently, the program provides modified Spanish courses for at-risk students (students with dyslexia, learning disabilities, PTSD, or who otherwise experience difficulties learning another language). It stands out as one of the few university programs within the field of modified language instruction nationally. While many schools and universities allow at-risk students to waive requirements or take substitution courses, ample evidence demonstrates that at-risk students can learn another language under the right circumstances.

Recognizing the evolving landscape of language education and the need for inclusivity, the program will officially transition to the Modified Language Program (MLP) on April 1, 2024, coinciding with "Celebrate Diversity Month." This change signifies a commitment to linguistic justice and acknowledges the exclusionary connotations of the term "foreign" when applied to languages other than English.

Contextually, in the United States, the adjective “foreign” has become a shorthand when referring to languages other than English. This trend has, in the past, extended to top professional organizations like ACTFL, previously known as the "American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages," as well as publications and other educational institutions, including CU Boulder.

Presently, CU Boulder has replaced the adjective “foreign” with “world” when describing languages other than English, and ACTFL has dropped the word “foreign” from their materials and website as well as from their name (the name ACTFL is no longer an acronym). This change reflects the understanding that in today’s context, where diversity and inclusivity should be celebrated, the word “foreign" can be alienating and exclusionary. Moreover, for Spanish heritage speakers and Latinx-identifying individuals, Spanish is not "foreign" but rather a local language and part of a cultural identity.

The Modified Language Program continues to provide invaluable support to students facing language-related challenges. With small class sizes capped at 14 students, instructors can give personalized instruction catering to individual needs and learning styles. A multisensory teaching approach enhances memory and retention, while accommodations ensure every student has the chance to succeed. Additionally, free tutoring services offered through ALTEC further supplement classroom learning.

Testimonials from past students underscore the program's impact, highlighting its transformative effect on their language learning journey. These firsthand accounts attest to the importance of creating an inclusive and supportive educational environment. Currently, the program offers the first three semesters in the Spanish language sequence.

Key figures shaping the program's evolution include Dr. Elizabeth Huard, program coordinator in the Spanish and Portuguese Department; Ayelen Costa, Educational Services Coordinator at ALTEC; Susanna Pàmies, Director of ALTEC; Dr. Esther Brown, Chair of the Spanish and Portuguese Department; and Dr. Tracy Quan, a linguistic expert consulted on the name change.

The transition from MFLP to MLP represents more than a mere alteration of a name—it symbolizes a commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable educational environment. By challenging outdated language norms and embracing diversity, CU Boulder is pioneering a path towards a future where language serves as a conduit for empowerment and connection for all.



About ALTEC:

The Anderson Language and Technology Center (ALTEC) at CU-Boulder broadens and deepens cultural understanding through innovative approaches to language learning and teaching through remote non-credit language courses, a modified language program, free language tutoring to CU Boulder students and provides both physical and virtual spaces to collaborate, communicate, and create to Be Multilingual. Be Adventurous. Be Unique.