“Language gives you the key to unlock this whole other world,” begins Dr. Carl Falsgraf, reflecting on his illustrious journey from a young English teacher in Japan to leading the development of the world’s first online, computer-adaptive language proficiency assessment. 

It was in Yokohama, Japan where Dr. Falsgraf’s journey into the heart of language teaching began. Standing before his first class, textbook in hand, he experienced a revelatory moment despite the initial struggle. “This is the coolest thing in the world,” he thought, solidifying his lifetime commitment to language education. This passion was not only about mastering a language but fostering deep, meaningful connections across cultures.

yokohama japan.
Yokohama, Japan

Dr. Falsgraf’s early experiences in Japan highlighted a critical gap in language education: developing the deep cultural understanding that comes only from true language proficiency.

He recalls encounters with fellow Americans in Japan who, despite living in the same spaces, missed the profound connections and insights into Japanese culture he gained through language. This realization fueled his dedication to changing how language is taught, moving away from rote memorization to real-world proficiency.

Dr. Falsgraf’s academic and professional journey led him back to the United States, where he founded the Center for Applied Second Language Studies or CASLS (then known as the Japanese Language Center) at the University of Oregon in 1994. His vision was clear: to shift the paradigm of language education towards developing real-world language proficiency. For two decades, he led CASLS in creating innovative assessments, supporting language teacher professional learning, and resources that have shaped language education across the globe. 

One of the hallmarks of Dr. Falsgraf’s career has been his pioneering work in language assessment technology and empowering the next generation of leaders in the language field. From humble beginnings with cue card assessments to the groundbreaking development of the STAMP (STAndards-based Measurement of Proficiency) test in 1999, his efforts have consistently pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in language education technology. 

In 2001 Dr. Falsgraf teamed up with Avant Co-founders David and Sheila Bong to help deliver the STAMP test to institutions around the world. Since then, Falsgraf has served on the boards of PNCFL and ACTFL as an advocate for the often-underrepresented Japanese language as well as the field at large. Specifically, Carl, in collaboration with Ann Tollefson, was integral in the founding of the Western Initiative for Language Leadership (WILL) which created a framework for fostering and supporting future language leaders in the Pacific Northwest. This effort expanded to include language teachers around the US. 

Now happily retired in Eugene, Oregon, Dr. Falsgraf looks back on a career that has not only changed the trajectory of language education but has also impacted countless educators, students, and professionals worldwide. His work through CASLS and beyond has laid a foundation for a future where language education is accessible, engaging, and profoundly transformative.

Avant is proud to carry forward the vision and expertise of educators like Dr. Falsgraf, a pioneer in the field of language proficiency assessment. Together, we’re not just learning languages; we’re unlocking worlds.