Greater access to high-quality language learning at the local, state, and federal levels leads to closer communities, a stronger economy, and greater national security. Any time we raise our voices in support of the educators, programs, and policies that promote language learning, we are serving as advocates for language education—and every voice makes a difference.
Who are Language Advocates?
Advocates come in all ages and at all stages of experience. They come in all levels of engagement—from those who post a tweet or write a letter, to those who take to a podium, to those who speak with their legislators on Capitol Hill. Advocates also come equipped with a diverse range of personal backgrounds, passions, and goals they wish to support. Each of these perspectives is an asset—a pool of resources that individuals can draw upon to strengthen their arguments.
There is no defined point at which someone graduates to the ranks of being an advocate: It happens immediately, the first time. And it happens a dozen small times throughout the day—the Facebook post we share about a local language program, the conversation in the break room or the bus stop… When we speak up about the benefits of language learning, we’re language advocates.
What Can I Do?
When we demystify the concept of “advocacy,” we find that supporting efforts at the local, state, and national levels are really a series of manageable steps that we can approach at our own pace. Combined with the efforts of like-minded individuals, these steps grow to have tremendous impact on the future of our communities and our world.
Find Your Voice
Explore the various platforms available to you, from casual speaking opportunities throughout your day to more formal events or outlets like PTA, school board, or town meetings; professional conferences; and media.
Consider the broad range of stakeholders in your potential audience, starting with your personal and professional networks and spanning outward. You’ll want to consider all those in your unique sphere of influence who may be able to help amplify your message.
Do Your Research
We rarely have the luxury of knowing how and where our advocacy will unfold, so we need to be ready to speak up when the moment arises. The most effective approach shares a personal, authentic experience while remaining grounded in some core research findings that support our claims.
Familiarize yourself with some of the data surrounding the benefits of language learning, recent enrollment figures, and the demand for language skills across the U.S. workforce to take your advocacy game up a notch!
Language Advocacy Research Toolbox
Where to begin? Just a few starting places could include…
Ready to advocate? Try some of these activities:
- Share your experiences and the data you explore broadly with those in your network.
- Send the Making Languages Our Business report to area reporters and news organizations …or submit an op-ed yourself!
- Work to have your state’s Seal of Biliteracy implemented at local K-12 schools.
- Refer a multilingual professional to be featured on our blog, joining a rich archive of testimonials that span across sectors.
- Educators: Invite national and local policymakers to observe your vibrant language classroom.
- Connect with our friends at JNCL-NCLIS to learn more about legislation affecting language education in your area.
- Write or call a state or national legislator’s office to share findings and show support for bills and resolutions that support language learning.
- Check out resources to start, expand, or save an existing language program via ACTFL's site. For more ideas, please also visit ACTFL’s State Advocacy Goals resource page.
Advocacy is a craft honed with experience: the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. By setting some simple goals, you can start making a difference today—and meeting some amazing fellow advocates in the process.