Language Education in the Time of COVID-19

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The America’s Languages Working Group calls for urgent support of language learners, particularly for those whose chronic educational disadvantages are exacerbated by the current COVID-19 crisis.

All of America’s Languages are part of our national identity and have unique meaning and value for each of us, opening pathways to new knowledge and technology,  connecting us to traditional wisdom, ensuring our access to services and protection in everyday life, strengthening our ability to travel freely from country to country, increasing employment opportunities in a 21st century global economy, or simply connecting us personally.

In these times, immigrant and heritage learners of English, often from our most disadvantaged communities, require more and better language support and training, especially to navigate the healthcare system and other social services. Native American communities struggle to maintain and preserve their languages and cultures as the virus strains their institutions and threatens their elders, the keepers of tradition.  Rural and inner city communities often have limited access to language learning due to underfunded educational systems, an overworked teaching workforce, and a persistent digital divide.

Accordingly, as a follow-up to its 2017 Bridging America’s Language Gap: A Call to Action, the America’s Languages Working Group issues “A Call to Action: Language in the Time of  COVID-19.”  We are seeking COVID-related as well as long-term funding to foster communication, connection, and collaboration for language education and services for children and adults in disadvantaged rural, inner city, Native American, immigrant, heritage and American Sign Language communities.

We address this call not only to educators across the language profession but to leaders in business as well as local, state and federal government whose constituencies depend on language education. We appeal as well to learners, parents and teachers all across America who value diversity and equality and see the current COVID-19 crisis as a threat not only to public health, but to the education of our most vulnerable populations.

If you share these concerns and aspirations, please join us by adding your organizational and/or personal endorsement to this call. 

Founded to support the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Commission on Language Learning report: America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century, the America’s Languages Working Group comprises leadership from across the language education community and its stakeholders in business, government as well as NGO’s devoted to populations disadvantaged by language.