Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young recently joined Reps. David Price (D-NC), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), and Joe Crowley (D-NY) to introduce H.R. 3096, the World Language Advancement Act, which would help state and local school districts implement innovative K-12 language programs, including those that focus on Alaska Native and American Indian languages.
Since 2012, there has been no federal support for world language instruction in elementary and secondary schools. The World Language Advancement Act would help fill this gap and foster the language learning pipeline by providing competitive grants to states and local school districts to support the establishment, improvement, or expansion of innovative programs in language learning in grades K-12.
“In addition to increasing academic achievement through innovative, community-based learning programs, I am particularly pleased to see the inclusion of Alaska Native and American Indian languages in the World Language Advancement Act,” said Congressman Don Young. “Teaching, preserving, and promoting the use of indigenous languages is tremendously important for Native communities in Alaska, and across the country. I am proud to be part of this important piece of legislation that works to protect and preserve our state’s more than 20 Alaska Native languages and other language learning programs.”
“In today’s global economy, K-12 foreign language and cultural knowledge have become necessary skills for government, private-sector, and non-profit employers,” said Congressman Price. “Federal incentives will help to ensure we are providing these competencies and equipping the next generation of leaders with the skills to communicate and collaborate across borders.”
“Fluency in a foreign language is critical in today’s 21st Century global economy,” said Congressman Lance. “The World Language Advancement Act will help state and local school districts implement the type of innovative language learning programs in elementary and secondary schools that will help increase U.S. economic global competitiveness for future generations of American workers."
“With over 150 languages spoken in Queens, I’ve seen firsthand how language can be a gateway to cultural understanding,” said Congressman Crowley. “In addition to increasing our young people’s interest in other cultures, studies show that learning a foreign language greatly benefits students’ success in other core areas, such as math and critical thinking. We should do everything we can to prepare and equip the next generation of American workers with the skills needed to compete in the global economy, and that includes expanding opportunities to learn foreign languages.”
Early language learning has been shown to strengthen performance across all academic subjects, yet only 25 percent of elementary schools in the United States offer any world language studies and only half of all American high school students take one year of a world language.
Alaska is currently home to a number of language immersion programs, including a Yup’ik language program in Bethel, AK, a Spanish language program in Wasilla, and a diverse world languages program in the Anchorage School District; all of which could benefit from the passage of H.R. 3096.