[lg policy] MLA Statement on Language Learning and United States National Policy

r.amirejibi-mullen at QMUL.AC.UK r.amirejibi-mullen at QMUL.AC.UK
Fri Jun 8 08:16:25 UTC 2012

The MLA regards the learning of languages other than English as vital  
to an understanding of the world; such learning serves as a portal to  
the literatures, cultures, historical perspectives, and human  
experiences that constitute the human record. Pragmatically, we  
believe in the value of becoming part of a global conversation in  
which knowledge of English is often not enough, and the security and  
future of our country depend on accurately understanding other  
cultures through their linguistic and cultural practices.

We believe this view should be uncontroversial; anyone interested in  
the long-term vitality and security of the United States should  
recognize that it will be detrimental for Americans to remain  
overwhelmingly monolingual and ill informed about other parts of this  
increasingly interdependent world. We are therefore deeply alarmed by  
the drastic and disproportionate budget cuts in recent years to  
programs that fund advanced language study. We believe that advanced  
language study is important for the same reasons many policy makers,  
advisers, and elected officials do: Americans need to be literate  
about the languages and cultures of the United States’ major trading  
partners, and Americans need to be literate in the so-called strategic  
languages important to national security. But we note that national  
policy can be and has been considered in more expansive terms: the  
Fulbright International Education Exchange Program was created in 1946  
explicitly to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the  
United States and the people of other countries,” and since then  
310,000 Fulbright scholars have served as unofficial American  
ambassadors, practicing person-to-person diplomacy around the globe.

We also believe that language learning should be supported for  
additional reasons: because there is a wealth of heritage languages  
spoken in American families and communities, because one learns more  
about one’s native language in the course of learning a foreign  
language, and because recent research suggests that language learning  
enhances critical brain functions throughout an individual’s life. For  
all these reasons, the MLA views the study of languages and  
literatures as central to American education at every level.


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