Keeping America Safe and Competitive: National Language Policy Roundtable Meets in Washington

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Mar 14 13:21:35 UTC 2009

Keeping America Safe and Competitive: National Language Policy
Roundtable Meets in Washington

WASHINGTON, March 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Senior policy-makers and other
officials gathered at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington this
week to discuss solutions to the chronic deficit in the language
capability and cultural understanding necessary for America to
communicate effectively with friends and adversaries around the world.
The National Language Policy Roundtable, organized by The Language
Flagship Group, is addressing issues underlying critical political,
social, and economic problems facing the nation and the new

The Language Flagship Group is a new 501 (c) (3) non-profit
organization, established in June 2008, whose mission is to advance a
national movement toward the more effective learning of foreign
languages in the United States. The Flagship Group complements the
highly successful federally funded Language Flagship initiative by
building a broader base of independent funding and activities across
education and business communities. The Language Flagship has
partnered with more than 20 colleges, universities, and other cohorts
radically changing how languages are taught in the U.S.

"The U.S. education system simply has not made the investment in
language required to provide the government or the nation with an
adequate pool of linguistic expertise from which the public and
private sectors must recruit to meet their needs," said Ambassador
Michael Lemmon. Lemmon is the chairman of The Language Flagship Group
and former Dean of the School of Language Studies at the Foreign
Service Institute. To address this crisis, the defense and
intelligence communities have been compelled to develop their own
language education systems. By the same token, the needs of state and
local government, business, and non-government organizations are not
addressed by federal policy or by the nation's schools.

"We're starting the conversation at the policy level with those who
bring broad perspective and experience in policy and staffing
requirements. At subsequent sessions we'll draw more substantially on
our partners and stakeholders from business and academia, and include
representatives of the state and local levels in the conversation,"
said Lemmon.  The first Roundtable discussion focused on the role of
the federal sector in providing leadership and incentives for foreign
language program development and implementation, and how that role
should be organized.

A number of options were discussed, including a proposal that the
nation requires a concerted policy strategy focused on foreign
language, similar to that employed for math and science. Participants
also discussed the establishment of a federal mechanism -- such as a
White House office similar to the Office of Science and Technology
Policy, an organization like the National Science Foundation, or a
standing sub-committee in Congress -- with the authority and capacity
to ensure continuation of the language focus and coordination across
the federal and academic sectors.

The goal for policy-makers interested in language is to ensure its
permanent place in policy and planning for national security and
economic competitiveness. Future roundtable discussions will address
topics such as the true language needs and capacity of the nation and
how are they are determined; the nation's language needs beyond those
dictated by national security requirements; the role the education
system is expected to play in providing the expertise required by
government at the local, state, and federal levels; and what the
division of labor should be between language technology and human
resources. Stimson President and CEO Ellen Laipson announced the next
roundtable will take place in May 2009 at The Stimson Center. "We are
pleased to host such an important conversation about one of the
critical shortfalls in the federal workforce for 21st century
security," said Laipson.

"In the long term, the most cost-effective way of meeting the language
expertise needs of the government and the country is to build a broad
base of American citizens who receive a strong education in one or
more languages," said Dr. Richard Brecht, Executive Director of the
Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland.
"Language should be an integral part of K-12 education, leaving
universities to concentrate on high-level language instruction and on
less commonly taught languages. Such innovation in education must be
led, and a national mechanism tasked with this responsibility could
lead the way."

For additional information contact The Language Flagship Group at
info at

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