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The Importance of Foreign Language Education

29 May

United States today carries new responsibilities in many quarters of the globe, and we are at a serious disadvantage because of the difficulty of finding persons who can deal with the foreign language problem.
                -U.S Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in 1953

For the United States to get to where it needs to be will require a national commitment to strengthening America’s foreign language proficiency.
                -CIA Director Leon Panetta

Today’s operating environment demands a much greater degree of language and regional expertise requiring years, not weeks, of training and education, as well as a greater understanding of the factors that drive social change.
                -Quadrennial Defense Review February 2010

It’s clear to all of us that schools, colleges, and universities need to invest more and smarter in linguistic instruction.
                -U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

We must support programs that cultivate interest in and scholarship in foreign languages and inter cultural affairs, including international exchange programs. This will allow citizens to build connections with people overseas and develop skills and contacts that will help them thrive in a global economy.
                -National Security Strategy May 2010

Our nation’s 21st century needs for Americans with global competence are much broader and deeper than anytime in our history—in many more languages and cultures, and across most professions.  Global competence must become part of our education system’s core mission, beginning in the earliest grades through graduate school. 
                -Miriam A. Kazanjian, Coalition for International Education

FLAP (Foreign Language Assistance Program) is a significant contribution to providing our students with the global language competencies and awareness, they, and our nation, must have to survive and prosper in the 21st Century.
                -Dr. J. David Edwards, Executive Director of the Joint National Committee for Languages

The United States is a “linguistically malnourished” country compared with many other nations.
                -Senator Paul Simon in the Tongue Tied American, 1980

You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language.
                -President Obama, 2008


78 Priority Languages in the US: Less Commonly Taught But Critical

25 May

Section 601(c)(1) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) requires that the consult with Federal agency heads in order to receive recommendations regarding areas of national need for expertise in foreign languages and world regions. The Secretary may take those recommendations into account when identifying areas of national need for the International Education Programs authorized by Title VI of the HEA and administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). See HEA, Sec. 601(c) (20 U.S.C. 1121 (c)). What follows are the seventy-eight priority languages that are less commonly taught, as identified by the Secretary:

  1. Akhan (Twi-Fante)
  2. Albanian
  3. Amharic
  4. Arabic (all dialects)
  5. Armenian
  6. Azeri (Azerbaijani)
  7. Balochi
  8. Bamanakan (Bamana, Bambara, Mandikan, Mandingo, Maninka, Dyula)
  9. Belarusian
  10. Bengali (Bangla)
  11. Berber (all languages)
  12. Bosnian
  13. Bulgarian
  14. Burmese
  15. Cebuano (Visayan)
  16. Chechen
  17. Chinese, Cantonese
  18. Chinese, Gan
  19. Chinese, Mandarin
  20. Chinese, Min
  21. Chinese, Wu
  22. Croatian
  23. Dari
  24. Dinka
  25. Georgian
  26. Gujarati
  27. Hausa
  28. Hebrew, Modern
  29. Hindi
  30. Igbo
  31. Indonesian
  32. Japanese
  33. Javanese
  34. Kannada
  35. Kashmiri
  36. Kazakh
  37. Khmer (Cambodian)
  38. Kirghiz
  39. Korean
  40. Kurdish ¡V Kumanji
  41. Kurdish ¡V Sorani
  42. Lao
  43. Malay (Bahasa Melayu or Malaysian)
  44. Malayalam
  45. Marathi
  46. Mongolian
  47. Nepali
  48. Oromo
  49. Panjabi
  50. Pashto
  51. Persian (Farsi)
  52. Polish
  53. Portuguese
  54. Quechua
  55. Romanian
  56. Russian
  57. Serbian
  58. Sinhala (Sinhalese)
  59. Somali
  60. Swahili
  61. Tagalog
  62. Tajik
  63. Tamil
  64. Telugu
  65. Thai
  66. Tibetan
  67. Tigrigna
  68. Turkish
  69. Turkmen
  70. Ukrainian
  71. Urdu
  72. Uyghur/Uigur
  73. Uzbek
  74. Vietnamese
  75. Wolof
  76. Xhosa
  77. Yoruba
  78. Zulu

Federal Budget and Foreign Languages: Not a Happy Couple

13 Apr

As many of you know, last Friday’s budget deal was cut before the figures were firm.  We are now beginning to see the actual reductions that are included in the Continuing Resolution leading to this Thursday’s  budget/appropriations vote.  There is not much good news — one exception is that despite a previous attempt to eliminate it,  the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) was not reduced. 

On the other hand, Title VI, Foreign Languages and International Education in Higher Education, was reduced by $50 million.  The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) was cut by $140 million, and the  Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE) was reduced by $231 million.

Byrd Honors Scholarships were eliminated, as were Even Start, Striving Readers, Educational Technology State Grants, and the National Writing Project.

The National Endowment for the Humanities was only reduced by $13 million, which is somewhat surprising given the vocal nature of its critics.

Over in the State Department, Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs were pared by $35 million, the U.S. Institute of Peace took a $10 million hit, Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia lost $44 million, and the Peace Corps. $25 million.

One other somewhat positive reaction is that most of these programs were not eliminated and, consequently, may over time see their funding restored. 

While these reductions are very likely a done deal, contacting your Members of Congress to express your dissatisfaction about the harm done to these valuable, worthwhile national contributions is the first step in renewing their funding.  Thank you.

Courtesy of J. David Edwards, Ph.D. Executive Director, JNCL/NCLIS

Fluent in another language? The CIA wants you

11 Mar

Multilingual recruits at a premium; but, U.S. is a living lab for how we learn

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — Many Americans don’t learn a second or a third language from birth, let alone a language that the CIA or U.S. Foreign Service might want. The situation has forced U.S. government agencies to learn how to cultivate the most talented second-language speakers from among college students with little to no other-language expertise.

But experts who help select and train raw talent also see an opportunity in the mass of recruits who start out speaking only English. That’s because the U.S. represents a living laboratory for observing how adult brains change over time as they struggle to adapt to the new grammar and vocabulary of a second language.

“In U.S. education, we don’t develop early bilinguals,” said Catherine Doughty, a language expert at the University of Maryland. “We’re dealing with monolinguals or people who have only studied foreign language, so that they don’t really have any proficiency.”

Read more…

US Senate Saves Foreign Language Assistance Program

10 Mar

From the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS):

The Senate Appropriation Committee has prepared their version of the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government and its programs through the remainder of this fiscal year.  The Senate bill reduces the President’s budget request by $50 billion as opposed to the House bill, H.R. 1, which has a $100 billion reduction.

The positive news is that the Senate bill level funds the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) at $26.928 million and Title VI, Foreign Languages and International Education in Higher Education, at $125.881 million.

Nevertheless, the House and Senate budget bills differ by about $50 Billion ($10 Billion for education alone).  They will attempt to resolve these differences by March 18.  Please contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support the more reasonable and workable Senate reductions. 

Final figures will be posted on the JNCL/NCLIS web site.

International Mother Language Day

22 Feb


“Languages are the best vehicles of mutual understanding and tolerance. Respect for all languages is a key factor for ensuring peaceful coexistence, without exclusion, of societies and all of their members,” says Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, in her Message on the occasion of International Mother Language Day 2011.


The International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by UNESCO in November 1999. This event has been observed every year since its creation to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.


 Read more…

Federal Budget and Foreign Language Education

18 Feb

The House of Representatives continues to consider H.R.1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2011.  This legislation, introduced by Chair of the Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers (R-KY), originally would have reduced this fiscal year’s federal spending by $74 Billion.  Newly-elected tea party Representatives forced the Committee to go back and find further cuts totaling $100 Billion.  The legislation literally addresses every government agency’s budget line-by-line. While program eliminations are still influx, in the Education Department H.R.1 would eliminate the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) and other small programs dealing with foreign languages.