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Bending the Arc of America’s Languages: The Emergence of LCTLs in America

Dr. Richard Brecht , Co-director, American Councils Research Center

Having recently been appointed Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, Richard Brecht is Co-Director of American Councils Research Center, a think tank devoted to evidence for language policy in education and the work place. Having received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard in Slavic Languages and Literatures, he has taught at Harvard, Cornell, Bryn Mawr, as well as at the University of Maryland.  In addition to being the founding Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL), Dr. Brecht has been a principal in the founding, development, and leadership of numerous other national organizations and projects, including:   Founding Chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Councils for International Education/ACTR-ACCELS; Director of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages, and Director of the National Foreign Language Center. Dr. Brecht has testified in Congress before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, and most recently before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. He has made hundreds of presentations and authored and edited dozens of scholarly books, textbooks, manuals, articles and reviews on language policy, second language acquisition, and Slavic and Russian linguistics.  Finally, Dr. Brecht has received numerous awards from national and international organizations in the language field.

Abstract: After decades of suppression, neglect and indifference, at the end of the 20thcentury important social changes here and abroad broadened the concept of “America’s Languages.”  Aside from the indigenous and post-colonial languages, immigrant and other “world” languages more firmly coalesced under a sobriquet of LCTLs and demanded stronger national voice and organizational support.  Thus was born the NCOLCTL and a number of its member organizations. We are now witnessing a new energy on behalf of language in the U.S., whose signs are clear:  an emerging rationale for language at the societal and individual level; popular attitudinal shifts and grassroots language learning opportunities; revolutionary advances in scientific research and communication & informational technologies (CIT); active promotion of language learning and use; proven supply of language-enabled school graduates and global professionals; and, rising demand across society for language skills. In the face of these developments, is it now possible for everyone in the US to have the opportunity to learn a second language, any language?  If so, it requires the academic, government, industry, heritage and NGO sectors to find common ground in vision, message and action?  Such an effort presumes leadership from the major academic language organizations, which enjoy unique expertise, resources and motivation. After 25 years of building the LCTL language fields, the NCOLCTL is positioned to take its place as one of the leading organizations supporting all of “America’s Languages,” for each and all.