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Americans to learn Hindi as security measure

January 06, 2006 10:41 IST
The United States administration has identified Hindi as one of the "critical need" foreign languages that Americans should learn to further strengthen national security and prosperity in the 21st century.

While launching the National Security Language Initiative programme, US President George W Bush is expected to request $ 114 million in funding for 2007.

"The NSLI will dramatically increase the number of Americans learning critical need foreign languages such as Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Farsi and others through new and expanded programmes from kindergarten through university and into the workforce," the US State department said in a fact sheet.

The US administration noted that an important component of national security in the post 9/11 period is the ability to engage foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical regions, to encourage reform, promote understanding and convey respect for other cultures.

"To do this, we must be able to communicate in other languages, a challenge for which we are unprepared," it said.

Under the direction of the President, the Secretaries of State, Defence and Education along with the National Director of Intelligence have developed a comprehensive plan that will see an expansion in foreign language education, starting at the kindergarten levels and through formal schooling and into the workforce with job opportunities and incentives for graduates of these language programmes.

The NSLI has been designed with three objectives.

Firstly, with the Departments of Education, Defence and the State providing funds as incentives to teach younger Americans - from Kindergarten through Grade 12 and beyond to include Universities and summer programmes.

Secondly, the NSLI will seek to increase the advanced level speakers for foreign languages with one initiative, for instance aiming to produce some 2000 speakers of advanced Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Persian, and Central Asian languages by 2009 as also in creating a new State Department summer immersion programme for students in critical need languages.

The Initiative will also seek to increase the number of foreign language teachers and the resources for them. This, for instance, would be done by setting up a National Language Service Corps for Americans with proficiencies in critical languages who will serve the country in a number of ways like working for the government or join in a newly created Language Teacher Corps to teach in the country's elementary, middle and high schools.

Another proposal aims at expanding teacher-to-teacher seminars and training through a $ 3 million Department of Education effort to reach thousands of teachers by 2007.

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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