President Bush last week announced a federal foreign-language initiative intended to strengthen Americans’ competence in languages deemed important to national interests.
“[W]hen Americans learn to speak a language, learn to speak Arabic, those in the Arabic region will say, gosh, America is interested in us. They care enough to learn how we speak,” Mr. Bush said at the U.S. University Presidents Summit on International Education, a two-day event in Washington sponsored by the departments of State and Education.
The National Security Language Initiative is designed to increase the number of Americans who speak languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, and Farsi, among others. The president plans to request $114 million in his fiscal year 2007 budget for the initiative.
The program would allocate $24 million to create incentives to teach and study critical-need languages in K-12 schools by refocusing the Education Department’s Foreign Language Assistance Program grants.
Part of the $114 million would also be used in part to provide scholarships for summer, academic year, or semester study abroad, and short-term opportunities for up to 3,000 high school students studying critical-need languages by the summer of 2009.