One of the commissioners appointed to the Language Commission is Nicholas Dirks, the Chancellor of University of California Berkeley. He joined eight more commissioners from across the U.S. and there will be more commissioners who will be recruited until next month, according to a press release.
First of its kind
Dave Nuscher, the academy spokesperson said that since 1979, this is the first commission of its kind. It will do research, collaborate and meet with professional and scholarly organizations in the U.S. to come up with language education recommendations within 18 months.
The commissioners that have been recruited are experts in the field of language learning and instruction. Chancellor Dirks was chosen because he supports the idea that language education is critical since people, especially Americans, continue to communicate, work and live with people from different backgrounds.
According to another commissioner, Dan Davidson, who is the American Councils for International Education president, the last time that an organization like this was formed was during the Hostage Crisis in Iran. At that time it raised the question of whether or not the U.S. had been doing a good job of preparing its citizens to defend America’s foreign strategic interests. Davidson led the call for foreign language education improvements at that time as well.
Davidson added that while English is a common language used around the world, knowing only this language would only work at certain levels when transacting with people who are not native to the English language. He said that in order to develop personal rapport and trust, which is critical when it involves highly important agreements, it is absolutely necessary for people to understand local customs, cultures and beliefs, which are integrated in languages.
Increasingly multilingual society
Senators from Utah, Illinois, Wisconsin and Hawaii and representatives from New Jersey (2), North Carolina and Alaska wanted the American Academy to probe some questions such as what action the U.S. should take to make sure there is excellence in international research, education and languages, how to effectively use the resources the U.S. currently has for foreign language instruction and how foreign languages impact on productivity, cultural diplomacy and economic growth of the nation and its citizens.
The members of Congress who called for the study stressed that Americans are more globally engaged now and have an increasingly multilingual society at home. While Americans are into global opportunities and challenges, from developing new technologies to public health, about 80 percent of Americans are monolingual while about 50 percent of their European counterparts are bilingual.
Chair of the Commission on Language Learning is Dr. Paul Clerc, who is the Columbia University Global Center in Paris director. He used to be the president of Hunter College and past CEO and president of the New York Public Library. He is an expert in French Enlightenment.