May 11, 2015
Dear Friends in Miami-Dade:
I am writing to lend the support of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) to Miami-Dade’s efforts to maintain high quality language programs in order to prepare students to not only live, but thrive, in today’s global environment.
In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world where American jobs and exports are more dependent than ever on foreign markets; where Americans are engaged diplomatically and militarily around the globe as never before; and where issues such as the environment, health and disease, poverty, development, and government instability are increasingly defined as global problems that require international understanding and cooperation, the ability to communicate in languages and with cultures other than one’s own has never been more vital.
Yet Americans remain glaringly deficient in language skills. It is critically important that we provide access to all our children to high quality language programs that will develop their linguistic and cultural competence in more than one language. We need to help our students maintain and continue to develop their native language as well as a second one. Presidential commissions as well as politicians, business leaders, and educators have been decrying the poor state of our foreign language competence for decades. In 1979, the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International studies found that “Americans’ incompetence in foreign languages is nothing short of scandalous.” Thirty-five years later, the state of our nation’s language competence has not improved.
If the United States is to meet the economic, diplomatic, and military challenges of the 21st century, languages must be a national priority. Success will require nothing short of a game-changing initiative that encourages the American public and the country’s leadership to recognize the essential role of languages in shaping citizens that can compete and cooperate in a global age. The Lead with Languages national public awareness campaign is positioned to be that groundbreaking effort and a clarion call for Americans to recognize the essential role of languages in the 21st century.
The U.S. Congress recently commissioned a study by the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences (AAAS) of U.S. current capacity in languages and how a greater attention to language education can improve the development of a citizenry prepared to thrive in a multicultural society and a global economy. We look forward to collaborating with you all as we launch the national public awareness campaign as well as the release of the AAAS study in 2016.
ACTFL stands by to support your efforts in any way that we can.
With best regards,
Martha G. Abbott