AUSTIN, Texas—Teaching the children of Texas languages in addition to English will be imperative for the state’s workforce of the near future to compete for the best jobs, according to a new report by The University of Texas at Austin’s 2007 Texas Language Summit Project.
The report envisions a state in which government, business, education, parents and communities will understand and value the economic, cognitive and humanistic benefits of learning languages and cultures other than English. It questions whether the state of Texas has taken sufficient action to ensure that its students, from grade school through college, are adequately prepared to enter an increasingly globalized, knowledge-based economy with the appropriate level of language skills and cultural competency.
The report is based on a survey calling for a broader, more extensive study of the states’ multilingual workforce needs for the future. The survey included interviews with 46 representatives of the business, government and educational communities, discussions with 45 others at a summit session in Austin and comments from an 11-member working group of educators.
Recommendations in the report—Language Roadmap for the 21st Century: Texas—will be presented during a private reception at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 19, at the Blanton Museum of Art. Many of the people invited to attend the event were survey participants who provided interviews and other information for the report, Project Director Elaine Phillips said.
Keynote speakers at the reception will be Admiral Bobby Inman, the Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in National Policy at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, and Dr. David Chu, the U.S. under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness in the U.S. Department of Defense.
Professor Itty Abraham, principal investigator for the project, said the report concludes that advanced skills in languages in addition to English and increased cultural competency are essential to maintaining Texas’s competitive edge in the future. It envisions a state in which a majority of students will graduate from Texas high schools with advanced or pre-advanced linguistic and cultural proficiency in at least one language and culture in addition to English.
The costs to business and government agencies of not having a workforce with advanced language skills are significant, according to the report.
"If businesses are not poised to take advantages of overseas opportunities or are not even capable, due to a lack of proficiency in a language such as Hindi, Vietnamese, or Spanish, of knowing such opportunities exist, they will suffer in a global economy," the report concluded. "If government agencies are not staffed with healthcare workers and legal staff who are bi- or multilingual and sensitive to the cultures of their clients, they face the risk of not only failing to provide services to the whole of the eligible public, but also of providing poor or even fatal medical care and, in some cases, breaching a client’s civil rights."
One of the main thrusts of the goal to raise public awareness, according to the report, is the discrediting of persistent misconceptions-that learning a second language is detrimental to first-language development, and that English is and will continue to be the primary language of business and therefore hiring, training, or maintaining and rewarding language-proficient employees is not cost-effective.
The survey was funded through the National Security Education Program and is one of three regional summits nationwide being held to determine the need for employees with skills in languages other than English. Reports from the three regions will be sent to the National Security Education Program in Washington, D.C. for use in preparation of a national report to be presented to Congress.
For more information contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of Public Affairs, 512-475-7847.