[lg policy] Language Is Necessary For Our Survival In Today's World

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 17 15:32:57 UTC 2010

Language Is Necessary For Our Survival In Today's World
By: allanleelovemonica

How presenters defined "the nation" and its "critical language needs"
proved to be an important aspect of  the National Language Conference

Several federal representatives argued that a national language policy
should conceive of the nation's needs more broadly, especially in
acknowledging the existence of linguistic minority communities in the
United States. These presentations attempted to expand definitions of
the nation's language needs to recognize non-English-speaking
citizens' claims to equal access and civil rights, as well as to
address the general lack of cultural understanding and empathy for
linguistic minorities. Presentations on this topic included the
Justice Department's need for greater numbers of translators for
federal trials, the Labor Department's need for more bilingual
employees to service Limited English Proficiency small business owners
and workers (Mok), and the Department of Health and Human Services'
need to recruit more heritage language speakers into the medical field
in order to remove cultural and linguistic barriers that limit many
citizens' access to the health care system Jang).

Meanwhile, Under Secretary Chu and U.S. Representative Rush Holt,
among others, used their conference presentations to define the nation
as a citizenry insecure at home because of the military's language
shortfall in overseas theaters of war. In his opening address,
Representative Holt argued that the September 11 terrorist attacks on
U.S. soil occurred because vital intelligence gathered in foreign
countries had been "lost in translation" (1). Chu, meanwhile,
explained that, even though "national security and national interest
could once be discussed in terms of physical borders and cultural
boundaries, it is indisputably no longer so. National security
concerns take us from the streets of Manhattan to the mountains of
Afghanistan and to the resort cities of Bali" ("The Influence" 3).
Holt and Chu tried to narrow the scope of this language policy debate
as they defined the nation's language problems in terms of the
military's overseas operations. Moreover, Holt and Chu repeatedly
echoed the conference's theme of "a call to action" as a way of
tabling debate about the ideal aims of language education. Chu, for
example, maintained that America's monolingualism and cultural
illiteracy are "a fact of life" that conference participants must
accept for now. As a nation, Chu argued, we don't need more talk about
ideals "we need action" that shapes our nation's "raw materials" into
the language competence that is "necessary for our survival in today's
world". Ultimately, both Holt and Chu tried to compel conference
participants to commit to protecting the nation rather than debating
what should or should not be defined as the nation s language needs.

The DoD published a white paper entitled A Call to Action for National
Foreign Language Capabilities in order to synthesize conference
deliberations and to provide a framework for legislators who would
join the effort to form this national security language policy. The
document, published in February 2005, proposes a seven-part strategy
for coordinating the nation's efforts to identify, manage, and expand
its language resources. Foremost among the components of this strategy
is the creation of a National Foreign Language Coordination Council,
chaired by a National Language Authority, which would be responsible
for "developing and overseeing the implementation of a national
foreign language strategy across all sectors," from commercial,
educational, and nonprofit organizations to local, state, and federal
governments . Not surprisingly, the military's definition of its
language needs as the nation's language needs dominates the white
paper's analysis and recommendations.Although the white paper does
mention that the United States has a responsibility to ensure
educational, economic, and civic opportunities for the nation's
heritage communities, the DoD asserts that it is in the nation's best
interest for the military and intelligence communities to lay
immediate claim to "the limited language resources that exist right

Read more: http://www.articlesnatch.com/Article/Language-Is-Necessary-For-Our-Survival-In-Today-s-World/1563081#ixzz0znjVGDmK

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