[lg policy] Multilingualism and commercial language: Vital for the U.S. economy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 28 14:45:42 UTC 2013

 Multilingualism and commercial language: Vital for the U.S.

Posted on June 27, 2013 By John
Education <http://www.voxxi.com/lifestyle/education/>

Enhancing America’s $20 billion commercial language industry is the focus
of the American Language Enterprise Advocacy (ALEA), the first-ever U.S.
lobby for the language enterprise. The goal is to

A joint effort between the Globalization and Localization Association
and the National Council for Languages and International Studies
ALEA strives for national policies around language education funding and
competencies in the United States, as well as legislation and joint
public-private initiatives to fuel the development of language capabilities
that underpin U.S. exports and global policy.

What does the commercial language industry mean for the largely
Spanish-speaking Latino community?

“One of the things with Spanish in particular is that I think we’ve gotten
to the point where it’s no longer appropriate to think of Spanish as a
foreign language in the United States,” GALA CEO Hans Fenstermacher told
VOXXI. “It’s a native language here. There is a huge population where
that’s a piece of their culture and existence. There are a lot of
businesses out there that want to reach that population.”

Added NCLIS Executive Director Bill Rivers to VOXXI, “What we’re pushing
for in D.C. is to ensure there is more access to language education and
where there’s a language industry issues, such as the availability of
skilled workers, those need to be attended to. There is a burgeoning market
out there for Spanish language skills, as well as every other language.”
[image: Commercial language depends on multilingual education]

The future of U.S. economy depends partly on commercial language and ending
cuts  in language education. (Shutterstock)

ALEA estimates the commercial language industry enables roughly $1.5
trillion in U.S. exports, with a commercial language services sector of
around $20 billion. Fenstermacher said every dollar of U.S. global commerce
rests on a tiny investment in language of 1.3 cents. Invariably, language
is viewed as the enabler of global commerce.

“We’re really trying to get policymakers and the business community and
everybody to focus on the fact that there’s a tremendous amount of benefit
that can be generated with a relatively modest investment going forward,”
Fenstermacher said.

That investment involves ending the recent cycle of
language-education-related cuts. The Dept. of Education has cut 48 percent
of its overall language funding since 2011, while the State Department will
reduce its spending by nearly 10 percent in 2014.

Rivers said the latter is important because it directly funds the number of
American students being immersed in foreign
studying abroad.

“It all has to do with the vital role language and culture play in the 21st
century,” Rivers said. “We have to prepare American kids to handle the 21st
century and we have to make sure that America is competitive with the rest
of the world with respect to these issues.”

GALA’s goals include getting federal agencies to understand the importance
of language education, which in turn will position commercial language,
along with the information economy, as an integral part of the 21st
century. In terms of education, Rivers feels language should be viewed as
part and parcel of the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]
initiative <http://www.voxxi.com/stem-education-and-minority-gaps/>.
[image: Commercial language depends on education]

Language education will help promote and position commercial language.

Both Rivers and Fenstermacher stress the notion of language in America
currently remains a political football thrown around by some leaders who
feel threatened by any language other than English.

“It’s a generational issue in a way,” Rivers said. “When we look at polling
data among younger Americans, this is not an issue. They don’t see that
English is threatened by foreign languages. They get the idea that the
world is multicultural. The world is changing and part of our job is to
show policy leaders that in fact it has. The rest of the world is learning
English but they’re also learning Chinese. Unless we get on board, we’re
going to lose out.”

Fenstermacher added that less than 30 percent of global business
communication is happening in English. Moving forward, that commercial
language figure expects to drop even more.

“Now you have a giant Latino community very proudly speaking its language
and involved in the culture, so I think at this point the reality on the
ground is that plural lingualism is the order of the day,” Fenstermacher
said. “Companies aren’t really trying to change history, they’re going with
the reality on the ground because they’re all about market share. They
embraced this a long time ago.

“It’s really time for the policymakers to catch up with that. This will
help us be competitive with the rest of the world. Entrenching ourselves
with English-only is taking a giant step backwards and in fact is never
going to work. It puts the workforce and the whole community and the
country at a huge disadvantage.”

Read more: http://www.voxxi.com/commercial-language-education/#ixzz2XWRkYyHT

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