[lg policy] Reframing the National Security Language Policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 22 14:47:58 UTC 2010

Reframing the National Security Language Policy
Date Published: 21st September 2010

This national Language policy, because it encourages more U.S.
citizens to learn multiple languages, provides an important
counterbalance to the Official English legislation that Senator James
Inhofe introduced during the 2006 congressional debates on immigration
reform and that his fellow senators approved by a 63-34 vote (Inhofe
Natl.). Senator Ihofe's English Language Amendment targets immigrants
in particular, demanding that they learn English as a means to prevent
them from "importing dangerous, deadly philosophies that go against
our American ideals" ("Inhofe Statement"). Although President Bush and
other federal officials might share the same belief that all people
living in the United States need to learn Links Of London Charms
English, they have also sought to encourage—and to fund programs that
enable—all U.S. citizens to learn multiple languages. Even as the
national security language policy promotes multilingualism, however,
English scholars need to examine this policy closely to understand the
ideas about language, identity, and public participation that guide
its vision for language arts education.

The policy's almost exclusive focus on the military and intelligence
communities' "critical" language needs reinforces a belief that
English is the language for U.S. civic life whereas non-English
languages are "foreign" and are needed only for speaking and writing
in international contexts. As John Trimbur argues, such a perspective
results from "a ritualized forgetting that the United States was then,
as it is now, a multilingual society". In this way, the policy
effectively reinscribes a belief in an English-Only U.S. public
sphere. Trimbur instead proposes a vision of U.S. society in which
multiple languages "circulatfe as means of participating in public
life". This vision of people using multiple languages in both
professional and civic life should guide English scholars as they
attempt to redirect the aim of this emerging national language policy.
By defining the nation's language crisis in terms of "foreign"
languages and overseas concerns, President Bush, DoD officials, and
congressional leaders have potentially dissuaded schools and colleges
from developing programs to serve the communities where they are
located. Mary Louise Pratt provides an example that illustrates this
point in her 2004 essay "Building a New Public Idea about Language":
Within its own borders the United States needs professionals and
service people of all kinds who can operate in locally spoken
languages. A few months ago, for example, two southern California
primary school teachers told me of their frustration when a flagship
Japanese program was set up in their school district, while an acute
need for Tagalog speaking nurses, doctors, lawyers Links Of London
Earrings teachers, social workers, even tax preparers went unmet.
There was no pipeline to track local Tagalog speakers into these
professions and enable them to develop their Tagalog.

Pratt's words illustrate the fact that a national language policy
conceived solely on international concerns may keep the citizenry safe
from enemies, but it will also ignore inequalities that face
linguistic minority communities within U.S. borders. The national
language policy debate needs to include a broader range of voices to
redirect the policy's aim toward improving domestic well being in a
variety of ways, particularly for those people who, because they speak
seemingly "foreign" languages, are situated outside the national
imagination in most debates about effective public policy.

Read more at http://www.articlealley.com/article_1753365_15.html

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