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

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 11 15:26:02 UTC 2012

MLA Statement on Language Learning and United States National Policy

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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