We aspire to a world where language education is universally recognized for providing learners with irrefutable benefits and empowering them to create and sustain more human connections. Our public education efforts ensure that those outside the profession fully understand the importance of language education.
Language Learning Today
When you think of language education, what images do you see? Take a moment to imagine the environment, the participants, and the tools they are using.
The reality is that many in the United States don’t have a current understanding of the multifaceted and dynamic nature of language learning today. Language education takes varied formats and happens in a wide range of environments—from traditional classrooms to homes, community centers, weekend schools, churches, and beyond. It happens in-person, virtually, and in hybrid settings, both domestically and internationally.
Language learners of all ages and backgrounds—including heritage speakers and those learning target languages—engage with authentic (or “real world”) materials that reflect the rich diversity of their respective cultures. Today’s learners are encouraged to interact with others, use their skills in the local community, and identify interdisciplinary ways to leverage their languages in exploration of other subject areas, with an eye toward career-readiness. Language learning happens everywhere, touching all subjects a learner approaches.
And yet, despite these exciting applications, our societal perception of language learning has not kept pace with the changes. No longer a nice-to-have, language skills are inextricably tied to personal and professional success, as well as U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.
Making the Case
In serving our mission to elevate the language education profession and promote the transformative power of language learning, the Language Connects Foundation seeks to share broadly the benefits of language learning as well as provide research-driven information on the demand for language skills in the U.S. workforce—including the impact on both language educators and across other sectors of the economy.
Language Skills are an Asset
We know that language learning yields benefits greater than language skills alone. Studies show that language learners perform better across academic subjects, demonstrate enhanced critical thinking and problem-solving skills (among other cognitive perks), develop higher levels of empathy and tolerance for others, and communicate more effectively.
These qualities explain just some of the reasons why multilinguals have a distinct competitive advantage compared to their monolingual peers in the job market, with 90% of U.S. employers expressing that they rely on employees with skills in a language other than English—and much of that rising demand sought in the domestic market.
Language Educators Deserve Greater Support
Teachers spark curiosity, inspire young minds, and shape the future. However, unlike other professions, significant gaps in accessibility throughout the language education field prevent many teachers from being able to take full advantage the opportunities that exist to advance their careers and better serve their students.
Like other trained professionals, language educators need adequate funding AND time to participate in ongoing education and professional development activities—be it in the form of additional degrees or certifications, in person or online conferences or workshops, and mentoring. However, we know that teachers are undercompensated compared to those with similar degrees in other roles1 and that many have to pay out-of-pocket for their own replacement staffing during absences, not to mention for their own classroom supplies like pens and paper. When given the choice to advance their career or provide their students with an enriching experience on their own dime, they often choose the latter.
Our work aims to share with the public these challenges typically faced behind the scenes, and to affirm that when we elevate the teaching profession, we support not only educators but their learners—and the future.
Language Advocacy is for Everyone
There is a long-held misconception that advocacy is limited to the op-ed columns of major weeklies and the halls of Capitol Hill; however, in addition to these important efforts, advocacy also includes—and indeed relies upon—a much broader spectrum of participants, with significant progress driven and sustained by the work of grassroots movements and individuals at every age and every level of experience.
When we speak up in support of language education—in any medium or via any platform—we’re advocates. Students advocate in cafeterias and school newspapers, parents advocate in carpool lanes and Board of Education meetings, business leaders advocate in collaborative partnerships and proposed budgets: The settings and combinations are endless. Social media posts, conference presentations, meetings with policymakers... All of this is advocacy, and every action makes a difference.
We encourage you to consider your unique sphere of influence—those individuals in your personal and professional networks with whom you could share resources—and identify a few goals to incorporate into your routine.
Public education corrects outdated misinformation, provides advocates with resources to leverage in saving language programs at-risk, and helps pave the way for new language learning opportunities to blossom and thrive in school districts, on campuses, and in communities across our country.