Transitions Abroad Magazine May/June 2005 Vol. XXVIII, NO. 6
Abroad at Home
Back Door Travel
Immersion Travel - Latin America
Worldwide Language Immersion Resources Edward Trimnell
Spanish Through the Senses Linda McDonnell
Program News & Notes
From the Editor
While many of our readers are multilingual and use their language skills for traveling, working, and living abroad, Americans generally are far behind the rest of the developed world in foreign language proficiency. According to the Census Bureau, only 9.3 percent of Americans speak both their native language and another language fluently, compared with 52.7 percent of Europeans. Enrollment in foreign language classes at American universities has fallen from 16 percent in 1960 to 8 percent in 2002, according to the American Council on Education. The average number of languages spoken by American business executives is 1.4, compared with an average of 3.9 by business executives in The Netherlands, according to a 2002 survey from Healthy Companies International.
Monolinguism is not just inconvenient; it can be deadly. After September 11 the Justice Department reported a backlog of untranslated documents and recordings that might have prevented the terrorist attacks had there been more qualified linguists in the U.S. And a March 7, 2005 U.S. News & World Report article, entitled "When Banter Beats Bullets," says that American officers in Iraq are finding that while they were trained on infantry tactics and on leading soldiers into battle, they were not prepared for the crucial challenge of human interaction.
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), www.actfl.org, has developed a campaign to combat America’s monolingualism by promoting the benefits and importance of foreign language learning. ACTFL’s members—who include teachers, educators, and language professionals—facilitate dialogue between education leaders and policy makers and support research on language learning in the U.S.
Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) supported the ACTFL in calling public attention to our nation’s “language deficit.” They helped to sponsor a resolution making 2005 “The Year of Languages in the United States.” Government, business, and higher education leaders nationwide are now working together to host community and national events each month—such as teleconferences, panel discussions, and language festivals.
Transitions Abroad celebrates The Year of Languages with an extended Language Immersion resource section to complement the many language program participant reports published annually in the May/June issue. Compiling this section is Edward Trimnell, author of Why You Need a Foreign Language and How to Learn One. You can read our interview with Edward about the advantages of learning other languages.
This issue’s Language Immersion articles cover in-country Chinese, Croatian, French, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish language study, along with many tips for beginners to advanced foreign language learners. This special section's writers remind us that the importance of learning languages—issues of national security, economic growth, and global interdependence aside—is ultimately about opening the door to another culture and connecting directly with its people.
Even a month-long course or a week-long language vacation can give you insight into and appreciation for another way of life—not to mention a potential leg up in business or a skill for landing an international job such as freelance translation (see Tegan Cathleen Raleigh's article).
We are lucky to have native speakers of other languages on staff. Our new designer, Nashima Gokani, hails from The Netherlands, and our office manager, Claudia Ricci Hansen, is from Brazil. I’ve already learned at least enough to sign off with “Tot later” or “Até logo.”
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