In February, I was honored to represent Rosetta Stone at the annual Advocacy Days meeting hosted by the Joint National Committee for Languages and National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS). This two-day gathering brought together the leaders of regional, national, and state organizations such as the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL), the American Translators Association (ATA), and the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC). It is one of the leading gatherings of people working hard to improve language learning in the United States.
What all the delegates to JNCL-NCLIS have in common with each other—and probably with many readers of this blog—is the firm belief that language learning can have a dramatic impact on the economic fortunes of this country and Americans individually.
Although much of the talk centered on K-12 and higher education, those areas still have business implications. After all, where do the impactful businesses of the next decade find employees that make their organization more competitive internationally?
At the conference, there were some truly exciting developments and some enlightening experiences. I’d like to share with you some of the highlights from my trip.
Sonia Zumborsky, Director, Product Field Support & Communications and Digital Globalization at Marriott International, stressed the importance of language learning for employees at companies like hers. She specifically mentioned the central role that Rosetta Stone plays in their training efforts. As you may guess, it is crucially important for the employees of a multinational hospitality organization to be able to communicate effectively. Marriott’s approach to language learning is all-encompassing and leverages the latest technology to reach as many of its employees as possible.
We heard from Mohamed Abdel-Kader, from the Office of International and Foreign Language Education at the U.S. Department of Education. His office is working hard to help Americans understand the value of language learning for national and economic security, whether in the education field or beyond.
Marty Abbott, Executive Director of ACTFL, provided an update on the activities of the Commission on Language Learning, a national effort being conducted by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS). The Commission seeks to be the premier thought leader in the language learning space. The vision behind the Commission’s work is well illustrated by this Lead with Languages video. They will be a primary resource for everyone interested in the work of language learning as we move forward, including in the business space.
Our elected and appointed leaders are taking notice of the important work we are doing as well. I was fortunate to take part in a lively meeting with Maureen McLaughlin in the U.S. Department of Education, as well as visit the officers of my senators from Washington State, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. I also spent some time in the office of Representative Adam Smith. In all cases, our message of the importance of innovative language learning materials and approaches was well and warmly received.
Finally, I had the opportunity to address the JNCL-NCLIS delegates on the topic on Languages for Specific Purposes; this branch of materials goes into much more depth, giving the learner specialized vocabulary and situations for their occupation or needs. This approach to language learning is proving to be a game changer in the corporate space. Not only does the learner acquire general language skills, but also knowledge that can be immediately applied during their work day.
This was my second year attending JNCL-NCLIS. I continue to be impressed by the leadership of the group’s Executive Director, Dr. William Rivers, and the professionalism and deep knowledge of all the participants. The future of language learning in this country is truly in smart, energetic, and dedicated hands.
Dr. Lisa A. Frumkes has been working at the intersection of language, education, and technology for over 25 years. She is Sr. Director for Language Learning at Rosetta Stone.