Which US government agency is most interested in vocal about foreign language training?
a) The Department of Education
b) The Department of State
3) The Defense Department
The answer is #3. The US has no national foreign language education standards or curriculum. But the Defense Department is adamant in its need for funds to train military in foreign languages. I completely agree that the armed forces need to be multilingual. Heck, we have three wars right now in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq and the military is desperate for speakers of Arabic, Dari, Farsi and Pashtun.
The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California is the place where military go to learn a foreign language all day five days a week for six to 12 month intensive programs. They even use Arabic Sesame Street to entertain and educate Arabic language students in Arabic. So I’m not the only one singing the praises of non-English Sesame Street.
DLI’s t-shirt motto: We learn foreign languages so you don’t have to
I couldn’t help but ask this college student I met at the San Jose Library (in California) to take the photo of his t-shirt that proudly said “We learn foreign languages so you don’t have to”. I had a laugh a I know the T-shirt slogan is in jest. But it points to the lack of interest in foreign languages in the US: we’ll learn it if we’re forced to and to protect you (the citizens) from foreign attack.
We need to change from a defensive stance on why it’s important to being multilingual to hailing the values for everyday citizens to know more than one language.