In recent years, much of the discussion regarding foreign language education has centered on its perceived benefits: a more robust economy, stronger national security, improved cognitive ability, and advantages in college admissions and the job market, just to name a few.

Below you’ll find the draft executive summary of the Languages for All whitepaper. This white paper is intended to answer the following questions:

  • Should the education system in the United States provide all children access to the interpersonal, developmental, and economic benefits of a second language?

  • Are our schools, colleges, and universities capable and willing to make language education universally available? If so, how? If not, why not?

We welcome your reactions, questions and comments. Please share them below, tweet with the hashtag #languagesforall, or send an e-mail to

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Languages for All White Paper Executive Summary

by Dr. Richard Brecht
with Marty Abbott, Dan E. Davidson, William P. Rivers, Robert Slater, Amy Weinberg, and Anandini Yoganathan

Executive Summary with Recommendations

For decades, English-speaking countries have wrestled with the question of whether one language, English, is enough for their citizens. For its part, the United States has not made learning a second language a critical part of its education system despite the demands of government and industry as well as the expectations of the overwhelming majority of parents across the country.

Accordingly, this white paper is intended to answer the following questions:
  • Should the education system in the United States provide all children access to the interpersonal, developmental, and economic benefits of a second language?
  • Are our schools, colleges, and universities capable and willing to make language education universally available? If so, how? If not, why not?

This paper provides evidence that:
  • The demand for languages other than English has dramatically increased over the past decade to the extent that the current education system can now be seen as failing to provide a critical skill to the majority of this country’s youth.
  • Advances in science, technology, and best practice can make universal access to second languages feasible, but only if:
    • scientific breakthroughs are exploited effectively by the formal education system and by the growing language services industry,
    • access to the Internet is universally available, and
    • research-based best practices in language education are identified and promulgated throughout the PK-16 system.


In light of this evidence, this document puts forward the following recommendations, which combine top-down federal interventions and a bottom-up activism on the part of the “Language Enterprise,” a convergence of government, education, private industry, and heritage communities:

  • Create a public awareness campaign on the personal and societal benefits, including national security and economic competitiveness, of language education.
  • Document, across the “Language Enterprise,” what language learning resources exist, where they are, and how they can be accessed, together with standards and assessments that guarantee efficiency and effectiveness for program outcomes.
  • Investigate the barriers at every level of the education system that are inhibiting the spread of language learning and teaching.
  • Develop a research agenda that fills the gaps in evidence regarding universal access to language education.
  • Initiate a national program of dual language immersions among other program models demonstrating that learning languages can be effectively and efficiently integrated into a major part of the PK-12 system.


The sad state of current language education in Anglophone countries is well understood:
A deep and persistent malaise afflicts language education in Australia, regrettably shared with other English-speaking nations, and the expressions of concern, even frustration, at the fragility of languages suggests a public refusal to accept this state of affairs. —Joseph Lo Bianco
These recommendations, supported by a broad national and international effort, may indeed hold the key to stemming, if not ending, this frustration and begin to provide effective means for all students in English-speaking countries to gain competence in a second language.

Click here to download a PDF of the executive summary.


  1. I think that this is an important event because it will galvanize many different groups around finding a way past these barriers. I am looking forward to watching it live.

  2. It is vital that the United States move forward with integrating language into PK-12 education. Language immersion will play a key role in meeting future needs and building a multilingual nation. I am looking forward to the Languages for All panel discussion about what PK-12 educators can do.

    1. This is a very timely piece! The maintenance of the US's global competitiveness is dependent upon us knowing other languages and about other cultures. I hope that the ideas expressed in this White Paper make it from the page to policy...

  3. EveryoneLovesAGermanGirlSeptember 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Knowing a foreign language has greatly enriched my life and opened so many doors for me, but I never fully learned the language until I lived abroad as an adult. I would love to see the proposed national program of dual-language immersions come to fruition. It would be such a wonderful thing for America's children if they could learn a foreign language at the age in which they're best suited to learning it, instead of struggling through it in high school as I did.

  4. If this language initiative is successful and foreign language education becomes a common part of the United States common K-12 curriculum, how will policy makers and educators assure that we will meet our needs for less commonly taught languages?

  5. To know language is to know people (of that language). Even if ASEAN ( sets English as the working language but along the way all 10 languages of ASEAN countries members are learnt. EU is a multilingual community so is ASEAN. Chinese is used by the most populated country and begins to widely spread so is Arabic. The world is more connected. The chance to use more languages other than our native tongue is clearly seen in any dimensions: communication, economic, transfer of technology-knowledge-culture , security, peace and understanding. Value is not only added but also created. IF we really want to know what other people around the globe think, plan and do we have to know them through their languages. The ultimate truth and the concept are embedded in languages. We can’t carry absolute value of concepts across time and space. Translation and interpretation is equivalence/ correspondence. Translation is not the original. Concept travels best by its own carrier. If one wants to know just only his/her language it means that he/she wants to know just only him/herself in an enclosed space and may not want to know his/her world friends. And he/she may not really know him/herself since he/she can’t compare him/herself with other people. Actually to know languages is not enough. To enrich and preserve their diversity is mankind’s responsibility. Not to use languages is to let them extinct. Languages carry with them more than themselves. And it wouldn't happen that the world will use just only one language at least the Tower of Babel tells us.

    Prof. Dr. Maneerat S. Thailand.