By Bill Rivers, Executive Director of Joint National Committee for Languages
My day job is lobbying, as the Executive Director of the Joint National Council for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies. My work involves coordinating with a coalition of some 140 member organizations to advocate for all things language-related here in Washington, DC. Since the last election, this work has been challenging, to say the least.
The story of languages in the US hasn't changed, and I don't think the country has changed either.
We still have hundreds of languages spoken here, languages still matter for the common good - national security, job growth, social justice - and bilingualism and biliteracy still confer enormous, lifelong benefits to the individual.
And, as far as society goes, we're still increasingly diverse, parents from all walks of life want biliteracy for their children, and language communities all over the country want to see their heritage and cultures passed on to the next generation.
What has changed, and painfully, is the way that certain parts of our society now feel empowered to talk about others. The anti-immigrant, anti-diversity, anti-globalism rhetoric, now too often matched with real action, is frightening and disheartening.
That brings me to the first challenge in advocating for languages and biliteracy: keeping our own morale up, and reminding ourselves that we have a great and powerful story to tell about languages. Grass-roots support has increased over the past two years: for example, every state is at least working towards the Seal of Biliteracy, and a Global Seal, for parochial and charter schools, among others who might not have access to a State Seal, is now available. That's just one example of real interest in what we do.
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