In February, I was honored to represent Rosetta Stone at the annual Advocacy Days meeting hosted by the Joint National Committee for Languages and National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS). This two-day gathering brings together the leaders of regional, national, and state organizations such as the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL), the American Translations Association (ATA), and the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC).It is one of the leading gatherings of people working hard to improve language learning in the United States.
What all the delegates to JNCL-NCLIS have in common with each other—and probably with many readers of this blog—is a commitment to the teaching and learning of languages and cultures in order to support the nation’s intellectual, economic, and political well-being. And in order to achieve those ends, we need more students to study more languages and start doing so earlier in their education.
Why? Because it takes many years of study to achieve the advanced levels of language proficiency that is required to use a language in a professional setting, as well as exposure to other cultures in order to become truly sensitive to the way others think.
At the conference, there were some truly exciting developments and some enlightening experiences. I’d like to share with you some of the highlights from my trip.
We heard from Mohamed Abdel-Kader, from the Office of International and Foreign Language Education at the U.S. Department of Education. His office is working hard to help Americans understand the value of language learning for national and economic security. He highlighted groups like The National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL). Their work in expanding language learning opportunities for our youngest students could be a game changer.
Sonia Zumborsky, Director, Product Field Support & Communications and Digital Globalization at Marriott International, stressed the importance of language learning for employees at companies like hers. She specifically mentioned the central role that Rosetta Stone plays in their training efforts. It was great to hear of their success and the impact we are making for them. Language learning doesn’t stop after graduation.
Marty Abbott, Executive Director of ACTFL, provided an update on the activities of the Commission on Language Learning, a national effort being conducted by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS). The Commission seeks to be the premier thought leader in the language learning space. The vision behind the Commission’s work is well illustrated by this Lead with Languages video. They will be a primary resource for everyone interested in the work of language learning as we move forward, but particularly educators.
Our elected and appointed leaders are taking notice of the important work we are doing as well. I was fortunate to take part in a lively meeting with Maureen McLaughlin in the U.S. Department of Education, as well as visit the officers of my senators from Washington State, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. I also spent some time in the office of Representative Adam Smith. In all cases, our message of the importance of innovative language learning materials and approaches in our schools was well and warmly received.
Finally, I had the opportunity to address the JNCL-NCLIS delegates on the topic on Languages for Specific Purposes; this branch of materials goes into much more depth, giving the learning specialized vocabulary and situations for their occupation or needs. While some might assume that such specialized content is most appropriate for corporate learners, I’ve been hearing more and more about the hunger in higher education, and even K-12, for those materials. As the focus in our schools keeps centering on preparing students for college and career, providing the language skills they will need for those endeavors will be paramount.
This was my second year attending JNCL-NCLIS. I continue to be impressed by the leadership of the group’s Executive Director, Dr. William Rivers, and the professionalism and deep knowledge of all the participants. The future of language learning in this country is truly in smart, energetic, and dedicated hands.
Dr. Lisa A. Frumkes has been working at the intersection of language, education, and technology for over 25 years. She is Sr. Director for Language Learning at Rosetta Stone.