Five international academies on Tuesday urged more investment in language education, to increase access to and diversity of languages spoken in the respective academies’ national borders, including Indigenous languages. The academies’ joint statement says that “the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified global communications -- virtual meetings, streaming cultural content, international news, social media, and so on -- but also risks increasing inequalities and heightening racism as well as regional tensions.” To solve these problems, it says, “we must increase our capacity to speak with each other as part of a global community.”
Signers are the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the British Academy, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and the Royal Society of Canada. “Providing all of our citizens full access to literate English must therefore continue to be an educational priority,” the statement says. “At the same time, a growing body of research identifies multilingualism as the natural human condition, affirming that full access to spoken and written English is compatible with mastery of other languages, and is even enhanced by the awareness brought by knowledge of other tongues.” The Modern Language Association has found that many language options that colleges offered in 2013 were no longer available in 2016, but that colleges and universities investing in language programs are bucking the trend of declining enrollments.