Commission on Language Learning
In response to a bipartisan request from members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, the Academy created a national commission to examine the current state of language education, to project what the nation’s education needs will be in the future, and to offer recommendations for ways to meet those needs.
In response to a request from a bipartisan group of members of Congress, the Academy created the Commission on Language Learning to provide answers to the following questions:
- How does language learning influence economic growth, cultural diplomacy, the productivity of future generations, and the fulfillment of all Americans?
- What actions should the nation take to ensure excellence in all languages as well as international education and research, including how we may more effectively use current resources to advance language attainment?
The Commission’s final report, America’s Languages: Investing in Language Learning for the 21st Century, offers concrete recommendations to improve access to as many languages as possible, for people of every age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. The State of Languages in the U.S.: A Statistical Portrait, summarizes the nation’s current language capacity, focusing on the U.S. education system. And five white papers helped to inform the Commission's work.
The study was requested by four members of the United States Senate—Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)—and four members of the House of Representatives—Rush Holt (D-New Jersey), Leonard Lance (R-New Jersey), David Price (D-North Carolina), and Don Young (R-Alaska).
The Commission’s final report, America’s Languages: Investing in Language Learning for the 21st Century, was influential with federal policymakers. It inspired the Congressional Caucus on American Languages and the World Language Advancement and Readiness Act, which included a competitive grant program to support local and state school districts seeking to expand world language learning. The grant program was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. The report was used in deliberations over several other bills to support native language programs, expand study abroad opportunities, and recognize student language proficiency. The report was cited in Congressional “Dear Colleague” letters in defense of federal funding for Title VI education programs and Fulbright-Hays Fellowships, in Congressional testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and by the U.S. Department of Education’s International Strategy, “Succeeding Globally Through International Education and Engagement,” issued in November 2018.
On college and university campuses, the Commission’s report inspired curricular reviews and is providing an intellectual foundation for the Lead with Languages public campaign organized by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Media coverage included an op-ed by former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA Leon Panetta in the San Francisco Chronicle and discussion in publications such as The Hill, Inside Higher Ed, Boston Herald, Washington Times, The Conversation, and Language Magazine.
To further advance the Commission’s recommendations, the Academy convened the America’s Language Working Group. The group includes representatives of language and learned societies, education advocacy organizations, government agencies, and international business. The Working Group’s outreach and follow up focuses on four goals: dissemination of the Commission’s final report; a call to action, “Bridging America’s Language Gap,” endorsed by nearly two hundred leaders and institutions from a variety of sectors; creation of a website to highlight successful, scalable language initiatives around the country; and planning a future conference of funders to strategize new investment in language education.
Learn more about the Commission on Language Learning’s influence: