Translator: Nadia Gabriel
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney I’d like to talk to you today
about the US foreign language deficit, and how it impacts our economic
and national security. The first question
that a lot of people are going to say when introduced to a new concept
is: “What is it?” They might then say, “Why should I care? What does it matter?” And then, if you do get engaged, you’re going to conclude by saying,
“What can I do? How can I help?” I’d like to lead off with, again,
a reference to Edward Snowden. Recently, in August of 2013, among the information that he did release, was also information
about the black budgets of the United States government. And of course, looking
at the foreign language numbers, I was amazed to read that in all our federal intelligence services
in the United States – and that’s about one million people – we have about 900 people
who are fluent in Chinese. And about 1,900 who are fluent in all
of the Middle-Eastern languages combined. That’s amazing, taking into consideration the geopolitical importance
of those regions. Okay, now here’s an old joke: A person who speaks
two languages is bilingual. A person who speaks
three languages is trilingual. A person who speaks four
or more languages is multilingual. A person who speaks
one language is an American. An old joke, but still very very true. Okay, what is this language deficit? According to a Gallup poll,
only 20 to 25 per cent of Americans feel comfortable having a conversation,
engaging in conversation, in a language other than English. According to the American Council
on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, only 18.5 per cent of K-12 students
in the United States are enrolled in a foreign language course. At the post-secondary level,
college and university level, a mere eight per cent of college
and university students in the United States
are currently enrolled in a foreign language course. On the other hand,
56 per cent of Europeans feel comfortable holding a conversation
in their own language, plus one. And 28 per cent of Europeans
feel comfortable engaging in conversation in at least
two languages other than their own. How long has the foreign language
deficit been around? Is it new? Not really. You can find discussion of it
back to the 1940s. But in the contemporary era,
the contemporary conversation, we can place the beginning in 1979. The report “Strength Through Wisdom,” a report from a presidential commission. That started the conversation. And what really increased the momentum, was the book published in 1980,
the following year, by Senator Paul Simon, “The Tongue-Tied American:
Confronting the Foreign Language Crisis.” That was published in 1980. Alright, we know what it is,
you’ve seen the numbers. You’ve seen the beginning of it, the origins of the foreign
language deficit. But why does it really matter? Well, it really does matter because 75 per cent
of the world’s population does not speak English. Also, our relative lack of communication
affects business, government, all over the world. It also affects us personally, limiting our personal, professional,
and career options. There has been so much written
on the US foreign language deficit, over so many years, by educators, by government,
by industry leaders, by business education leaders. And I just want to point out a few of,
I think, the most relevant, documents. [Why Does It Matter?
From Forbes] Forbes, in 2012, a blog post, America’s foreign language deficit,
written by the president of Cornell, and one of the officers
of Cornell University. A little bit earlier in 2012, in June, the Council on Foreign Relations. Another blog post, “Foreign languages
and US economic competitiveness.” How important is that? At about the same time,
the Council on Foreign Relations published a piece written
by the president of the Council, the Council for Applied Linguistics, “Languages for Jobs Initiative.” How clear is the connection? Still, why does it matter? What about Senate hearings? There are numerous Government
Accountability Office reports, and also Senate hearings. Two of the most recent
took place in 2010 and 2012. “Closing the Language Gap: Improving the Federal Government
Foreign Language Capabilities,” in 2010. And then even more alarmingly,
“A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities
in the Federal Government.” Across governmental agencies, from law enforcement, to technology,
to intelligence gathering. But still, why does it really matter? University of Phoenix, alright,
their research institute, now known as the Apollo
Research Institute, has published two major reports
on foreign languages and the work place. The first one, “The Great Divide:
Worker and Employer Perspectives,” on skills, what skills
are going be demanded. And then the second report, “Current and Future Foreign Language
Demands in the Workplace.” Both in 2011. Still, why does it matter
if we still need to be convinced? “The Language Flagship,” released in 2009, a report “What Business Wants:
Language Needs in the 21st Century.” It’s what business wants. From the National
Research Council in 2007, “International Education and
Foreign Language Education: Keys to Securing America’s Future.” In 2006, we had the “National Security
Language Initiative,” known for promoting
the concept of critical languages. From the Committee
for Economic Development, the report, “Education for Global Leadership:
The Importance of International Studies and Foreign Language Education for US
Economic and National Security.” From the Department of Defense,
“Defense Language Transformation Roadmap,” first promulgated in 2005. Now we know what it is,
and we know how much it matters, to us as a nation, to us individually. What can we do? We can act as individuals. We can act as members
of educational institutions. We can act as businesses, business owners,
business leaders, and business educators. We can act as government,
government agencies, local government, state government,
national government. As individuals, this is self-evident, we can learn another language. Anyone at any age can learn a language. Motivation is the best
predictor of success. Budget matters far less. Motivation is key. We can encourage our family and friends
to learn another language. Talk to your children, your parents,
your cousins, your next-door neighbor. We can advocate
for foreign language education, in our towns, in our school districts,
at the state level, and also at the national level. If advocacy is not enough,
we can become a change agent. We can certainly vote for candidates
who favor foreign language education, we can become candidates
for public office ourselves. What can educational institutions do? Well we’re sitting here
in a university library. Educational institutions can adopt
foreign language requirements, and enforce existing ones. However, I think possibly
more interestingly, and more importantly, in this age where foreign language has,
if not disappeared from classrooms, has receded from university classroom. You saw that figure
of eight per cent of students that we spoke about
a couple of minutes ago. What we also can do, as universities, we can offer informal co-curricular and experiential language learning
experiences and opportunities. Think of the possibilities
on a campus like this. We have students from all over the world,
speaking many many different languages. We’re located in Bergen County, NJ, surrounded, once again,
by many many languages. The possibilities here are truly endless. What can we do about it? Companies, large and small,
can compensate, can offer they can compensate for, or even offer opportunities
for foreign language instruction. Onsite, or fund study that’s offsite,
off the company campus. What can government do? Government can and does do a great deal. Government certainly can offer
compensation, advancement, training to government employees
across all of the agencies who possess or who
are in the process of learning needed foreign language skills. We do see this across
the federal government. Government can increase tax
and other advantages for people studying foreign languages
for workplace needs. Government can also increase,
actually maintain and even increase, funding for foreign language initiatives. As you all know, in 2008, it’s some of the foreign language programs
that have been put forward, post 9/11, they were subject to the same budget
restrictions as many many other programs. We can look to the literature. We have a great report
from the Center for Applied Linguistics, “Building the Foreign Language
Capacity We Need: Toward a Comprehensive Strategy
for a Foreign Language Framework.” Notice the use of the term “framework,” very much inspired by language practice
and language policy in the European Union. What can we do? The MLA, Modern Language Association,
has come out with a report: “Foreign Languages and Higher Education:
New Structures for a Changed World.” Notice they don’t say, “Changing world.” The world has already changed. What can we do about it? We can learn from others. “What We Can Learn From Foreign Language
Teaching in Other Countries.” Their successes, their challenges. “Promoting a Language
Proficient Society: What You Can Do.” We have from the American Council
on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, “Realizing Our Vision
of Languages for All.” That was the theme
of their 2005 language year. And “Standards for Foreign Language
Education,” since 1996. We have Mary Louise Pratt’s piece
from Silver Dialogues at NYU, “Building a New Public Idea
About Language.” There’s a lot we can do. Concluding thoughts:
will we be tongue-tied or fluent? There are encouraging signs. Secretary of Education Duncan,
then CIA director Panetta, spoke at the national
Foreign Language Summit in 2010. In April 2013, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language
Education, Clay Pell was appointed. May 2013, the late Senator
Frank Lautenberg and Representative Rush Holt
from New Jersey introduced legislation
in the House and the Senate on foreign language education. The next steps: Learn from the research, learn from best practice
from around the world. The very last step: develop a strategic social marketing plan
involving all constituencies, government, business, education. Involve celebrities; bilingual role models like Johnny Depp,
Sandra Bullock, Alex Rodriguez, the list is long. And final question: Many countries
have language policies, the United States does not. Should the United States
have a foreign language policy, or a foreign language education policy? Question open to debate. Thank you. (Applause)