US Plans to Learn 'Critical' Languages

US President George W. Bush has unveiled plans to boost teaching of what he described as "critical" languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Hindi and Chinese, saying the step was a strategic move to promote "terror-combat, freedom and democracy".

US Plans to Learn 'Critical' Languages

"This program is a part of a strategic goal, and that is to protect this country," Bush told the US University Presidents Summit on International Education, the Washington Post reported Friday, January 6.

The plans, which include Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi and Farsi and many others, aim to involve children in foreign-language courses as early as kindergarten.

They also include drawing more linguists into government service and establishing a national corps of language reservists available to the Pentagon, State Department, intelligence community and other agencies in times of crises.

Currently, many foreign languages are offered to a limited number of officials in the departments of State, Defense, Agriculture, and USAID, who will serve as diplomats at US embassies overseas.

Some public schools and universities currently offer foreign languages including French, Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin.

"War on Terror"

Following the 9/11 attacks and the US so-called "war on terror", the United States has found itself critically short of troops, diplomats and intelligence analysts skilled in the languages of the places seen as battlegrounds for the controversial war.

Further, widespread perceptions of America as culturally insensitive have contributed to the precipitous decline in the US image abroad, according to the daily.

"Our goal is in essence to ramp up the mastery of these critical languages, not solely for national security reasons but also in terms of America's standing in the world," Reuters quoted Assistant Secretary of State Barry Lowenkron as saying.

Bush said Thursday that learning these "critical" languages would help combat the notion that the United States is bullying in imposing its concept of freedom.

"When Americans learn to speak a language, learn to speak Arabic, those in the Arabic region will say, 'Gosh, America's interested in us. They care enough to learn how we speak."

Bush intends to request $114 million in fiscal 2007 for the programs.

The United States has recently launched a public relations campaign to improve its badly tarnished image in the Arab and Muslim world.

Scholarships

The US initiative will include State Department scholarships for up to 3,000 high school students to study critical languages abroad by 2009.

It also allows 300 native speakers to come to the United States to teach in American universities and schools in 2006-07.

The teaching program further includes assistance to 100 US teachers to study critical languages abroad and produce 2,000 advanced speakers of Arabic, Russian, Farsi, Hindi and Central Asian languages by 2009.


It will also establish a National Language Service Corps for Americans with proficiencies in critical languages to serve the country by working for the federal government, serve in a Civilian Linguists Reserve Corps, and join a newly-created Language Teacher Corps to teach languages in schools.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, introducing Bush Thursday, said Washington should give as much attention to the study of Arabic and other critical languages as it did to Russian and Eastern European culture during the Cold War.

"We have not, as a country, made the kind of intellectual investment that we need to make in the exchange of people, in the exchange of ideas, in languages and in cultures and our knowledge of them that we made in the Cold War," said Rice, who holds a doctorate in international studies and was a specialist in Soviet affairs.

The Pentagon said it intended to spend $750 million over five years beginning in fiscal 2007, which starts Oct. 1, on efforts to increase foreign language proficiency within the military.

US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been complicated by the fact that nearly all the US personnel serving there do not speak or understand the local languages.

Source: IslamOnline.net & News Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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