In September, AFS-USA’s Director of Educational Outreach, Jill Woerner, was invited to serve as one of America’s Language Fellows because of her unique experiences both with ACTFL’s Professional Learning Committee and other initiatives. (ACTFL is the leading association for teachers of world languages.)
The America’s Languages Working Group was born out of a project commissioned by a bipartisan group of members of Congress. The project, which became a very helpful final report called “America’s Languages: Investing in Language Learning for the 21st Century” which offers concrete recommendations to improve access to as many languages as possible for people of every age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.
The five major recommendations that surfaced from the report are:
1. Increase the number of language teachers at all levels of education so that every child in every state has the opportunity to learn a language in addition to English.
2. Supplement language instruction across the education system through public-private partnerships among schools, government, philanthropies, businesses, and local community members.
3. Support heritage languages already spoken in the United States, and help these language persist from one generation to the next.
4. Provide targeted support and programming for Native American languages as defined in the Native American Languages Act.
5. Promote opportunities for students to learn languages in other countries by experiencing other cultures and immersing themselves in multilingual environments.
Jill, along with the other America’s Language Fellows, will be volunteering over the next year to two years to highlight K-12, higher education, and nonprofit organizations that support these five recommendations to create a repository of programs that should be highlighted as models for other schools and organizations on a website.
After the initial round of programs that will be highlighted, there will be a process created for evaluating future programs that are nominated so the group can determine their validity as a model to be approved for display on the America’s Languages website. This project is being coordinated by American Councils in coordination with ACTFL.