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Bridging America’s Language Gap: A Call to Action

An Initiative of the America’s Language Working Group

Leaders in American business, government, and education support a national effort to strengthen language education so that individual Americans can more effectively participate in a global society, and the nation as a whole can prosper in a global economy. To join the effort, contact John Tessitore at jtessitore@amacad.org.


Why is language education critical to America?

Language is the key to cultural understanding. While proficiency in English is essential in many facets of life in the 21st century, at home and abroad, knowledge of English alone is insufficient to meet the nation’s needs in a global society—as noted in America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century, a report of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. American industry participates in more foreign markets than ever before and the nation is engaged, diplomatically or militarily, in every corner of the globe. Challenges in scientific research and technological innovation all require greater international collaboration. And we have a social obligation, established in law, to offer critical social services in languages other than English.

As the Academy report states, “[B]y several measures, the United States has neglected languages in its educational curricula, its international strategies, and its domestic policies.” This oversight has had “adverse and often unforeseen consequences at home and abroad—in business and diplomacy, in civic life, and in the exchange of ideas.” A more forward-thinking strategy for meeting future needs would advance policies and investments that promote language education for all Americans.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and to future generations—as parents, educators, policy-makers, and leaders in business and government—to support language learning in the United States to achieve the following results:

  • Provide Access to Languages for all Age Groups and every level of the education continuum, from early childhood through retirement;
  • Prepare More Language Teachers, without whom we cannot advance language education;
  • Promote Public-Private Partnerships in language education to amplify the work begun in our schools;
  • Support Heritage and Indigenous Language communities in their traditions and birthrights, and as an important and distinctive national resource; and
  • Encourage International Learning Experiences for students, teachers, and workers through educational and professional programs, as a critical aspect of advanced language learning.

We, the signatories, attest that the public and private sectors require greater capacity in languages in addition to English, and we urge greater support for languages in order to maintain and enhance American global leadership. We stand ready to do our part.

Nancy C. Andrews
Chair of the Board, American Academy of
Arts and Sciences; Former Dean,
Duke University School of Medicine

Norman R. Augustine
Retired Chairman and CEO,
Lockheed Martin Corporation;
Former Under Secretary of the Army

Melody C. Barnes
Co-Founder and Principal, MB2 Solutions LLC; Senior Fellow and Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics, Miller Center, University of Virginia; Former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council (2009–2012)

Sayu Bhojwani
President, The New American Leaders Project;
Former New York City Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs

Bill Bradley
Former United States Senator, New Jersey

Philip Bredesen
Former Governor of Tennessee

Louise H. Bryson
Chair Emerita, Board of Trustees,
The J. Paul Getty Trust

Ken Burns
Filmmaker, Florentine Films

Gerald L. Chan
Co-Founder and Director,
Morningside Group

James Cuno
President and CEO, The J. Paul Getty Trust

Alan Dachs
President, The Fremont Group

Ruth A. Davis
Former Director General of the
United States Foreign Service;
Former Director of the Foreign Service Institute

Karl W. Eikenberry
Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan;
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, ret.;
Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow and Director,
U.S.-Asia Security Initiative,
Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center,
Stanford University

Sam Farr
Former Member of the United States
House of Representatives, California's
17th and 20th Congressional Districts

Ann Friedman
Founder and Chair, Planet Word

Libia S. Gil
Chief Education Officer,
Illinois State Board of Education

Arthur L. Goldstein
Chairman, President, and CEO Emeritus,
Ionics, Inc.

Robert D. Haas
Chairman Emeritus,
Levi Strauss & Co.

Timothy Hampton
Director, Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities; Aldo Scaglione and Marie M. Burns Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and French, UC Berkeley

Antonia Hernández
President and CEO,
California Community Foundation

Rush Holt
CEO, American Association for the
Advancement of Science

Alberto Ibargüen
President and CEO,
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

David Karnes
President and CEO, Fairmont Group;
Former United States Senator, Nebraska

Steven S. Koblik
President, retired, The Huntington Library,
Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Paul Le Clerc
Chair, Commission on Language Learning,
American Academy of Arts and Sciences;
Director, Columbia Global Center-Paris;
Former President and CEO,
New York Public Library;
Former President, Hunter College

Steve Leveen
Host, America the Bilingual;
Co-Founder and retired CEO, Levenger

Gail H. McGinn
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for
Plans; Former Senior Language Authority,
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense
for Personnel and Readiness

Richard A. Meserve
President Emeritus, Carnegie Institution
for Science; Former Chairman,
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

S. Georgia Nugent
President Emerita, Kenyon College;
Former Interim President, The College of Wooster; Past President, Society for Classical Studies

David Oxtoby
President Emeritus, Pomona College

Leon E. Panetta
Former Secretary of Defense (2011–2013);
Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2009–2011)

Anne L. Poulet
Emeritus Director, Frick Collection

Kenneth Pugh
President and Director of Research,
Haskins Laboratories
 

Geraldine Richmond
Secretary, American Academy of
Arts and Sciences; Presidential Chair
in Science and Professor of Chemistry,
University of Oregon

Jerry I. Speyer
Chairman, Tishman Speyer

Natasha Trethewey
Board of Trustees Professor of English, Northwestern University;
19th United States Poet Laureate

Victoria Vasques
President and CEO,
Tribal Tech, LLC

Kenneth L. Wallach
Executive Chairman,
Central National Gottesman Inc.

Craig Wilson
Former Director, Intelligence Policy,
Office of the Secretary of Defense

Academic Associations

Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Council of Learned Societies
American Council on Education
American Historical Association
Association of American Universities
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Association for Psychological Science
The College Board
Consortium of Social Science Associations
Council of Independent Colleges
Linguistics Society of America
Modern Language Association
National Communication Association
National Humanities Alliance
The Phi Beta Kappa Society


Businesses

Avant Assessment
Certified Languages International
Global Institute for Language and Literacy Development
LanguageLine Solutions
Language Magazine
Localization Institute
LocWorld
Medtronic
Multilingual
Participate
Rosetta Stone
Velázquez Press


Colleges and Universities

Agnes Scott College
Bennington College
Boston University
Bryn Mawr College
Caldwell University
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida
Columbus State University, Columbus, GA, Department of Modern and Classical Languages
Dominican University (IL)
Indiana University
Kent State University Institute for Applied Linguistics
Middlebury College
Newbury College
North Carolina State University
Ohio Dominican University
Simpson College
Stillman College
St. Norbert College
St. Thomas University
Texas Lutheran University
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Florida
University of Kansas
University of Maryland, College Park
University of Oregon
Whittier College


Cultural Organizations

UnidosUS
League of Latin American Citizens Florida


International Organizations

Asia Society
Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
Galapagos Conservancy
International Career Advancement Program Alumni Association
International Mission of Mercy USA
International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge
National Peace Corps Association
Qatar Foundation International (QFI)
Senior Seminar Alumni Association


Language Education Associations

7000 Languages
African Language Teachers Association
Alabama World Language Association
Alliance for International Exchange
American Association of Teachers of French
American Association of Teachers of German
American Association of Teachers of Japanese
American Association of Teachers of Korean
American Association of Teachers of Italian
American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages
American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
American Classical League
American Council of Teachers of Russian
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
American Councils for International Education
Arabic Honor Society
Arizona Language Association
Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents
California Association for Bilingual Education
California Language Teachers Association
Californians Together
Campagna Center
Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools
Coalition for International Educational Exchange
Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers
Concordia Language Villages
Connecticut Council of Language Teachers
The Council of Teachers of Southeast Asian Languages
DC Immersion
DUALLANGUAGESCHOOLS.ORG
Dual Language Education of New Mexico
Florida Foreign Language Association
Florida Foreign Language Managers of Education
Foreign Language Association of Georgia
Foreign Language Association of Maine
Foreign Language Association of Missouri
Foreign Language Association of North Carolina
Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey
Foreign Language Association of Virginia
Hawaii Association of Language Teachers
IES Abroad
Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association
Institute of International Education
International Association of Teachers of Czech
Iowa World Language Association
Joint National Committee for Languages
Kentucky World Language Association
Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education
Massachusetts Foreign Language Association
Michigan World Language Association
Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures
Mississippi Foreign Language Association
Montana Association of Language Teachers
National Association of Bilingual Educators
National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages
National Committee for Latin and Greek
National Council for Languages and International Studies
National Council of Less-Commonly Taught Languages
National Council of State Supervisors for Languages
National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations
National Foreign Language Center
National Heritage Language Resource Center
New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers
North American Association of Teachers of Polish
Ohio Foreign Language Association
Oklahoma Foreign Language Teachers Association
Pacific Northwest Council on Foreign Languages
Professional Language Association Nevada
Rhode Island Foreign Language Association
SEALOFBILITERACY.ORG
Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española
South Dakota World Language Association
Southern Conference of Foreign Language Teachers Association
Southern Conference on Language Teaching
Southwest Conference on Language Teaching
TESOL International Association
Texas Foreign Language Association
Wisconsin Association for Language Teachers
Wyoming Foreign Language Teachers Association


Professional Associations

American Academy of Diplomacy
Association of Black American Ambassadors 
Association of Language Companies
American Translators Association
Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters
Globalization and Localization Association
Network of Business Language Educators (NOBLE)


School Systems

Denver Public Schools
District of Columbia Public Schools
Thompson School District, Loveland, Colorado


State Humanities Councils

Federation of State Humanities Councils
California Humanities
Humanities North Dakota
Illinois Humanities
Missouri Humanities Council
New Jersey Council for the Humanities
Vermont Humanities Council

To learn more about this project, visit www.amacad.org/language or contact jtessitore@amacad.org.

Bridging America’s Language Gap

A call to action supporting the recommendations of the Commission on Language Learning.

Read more and download the call to action.

New Publications

America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century

Download this publication.

Read more about the Commission on Language Learning.


The State of Languages in the U.S.: A Statistical Portrait

Read more and download this publication.

Download all the figures from the report as a PowerPoint presentation or download individual figures as JPG or PDF.

In the News

10/4/17
Why Language Education Matters
NC State Co-Hosts Panel
Humanities and Social Sciences News
7/16/17
The News & Observer
6/23/17
Inside Higher Ed
2/28/17
Inside Higher Ed
12/15/16
Inside Higher Ed
11/2/16
Inside Higher Ed

Learn More About this Project