Foreign language skills as the ultimate 21st century global competency: Empowerment in a globalized world

Author/s:

Stein-Smith, Kathleen*
Fairleigh Dickinson University – Metropolitan Campus, USA (kathysteinsmith@gmail.com)

Abstract:

In a world where we are all talking, tweeting and live-streaming with each other, we must be able to understand each other – foreign languages are the ultimate social media tool! Foreign language skills are the ultimate, overarching 21st century global competency, important in our careers and in our lives as local and global citizens. Yet, in the U.S., fewer than 20% of K-12 public school students study another language and only 8% of college and university are enrolled in a course in a language other than English. In addition, only one in four Americans is capable of holding a conversation in another language. This U.S. foreign language deficit has a negative impact on our economic and national security, and on our ability to effectively navigate the multilingual world. 2017 has been a watershed year for foreign languages in the U.S. The 2017 reports, America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century, Not Lost in Translation: The Growing Importance of Foreign Language Skills in the U.S. Job Market, and The National K-12 Foreign Language Enrollment Survey are poised to propel foreign languages into the center of the current public and academic conversation on education in the U.S. Knowledge is power, and foreign language skills and cultural knowledge empower foreign language learners and speakers to appreciate and understand other cultures and to examine global issues from multiple perspectives. They bring us personal and professional benefits and can encourage the development of a global citizenship mindset and values. The U.S. needs to address overcome the U.S. foreign language deficit through increasing awareness, motivation, access, and pre-professional curriculum, and through effective advocacy. Knowledge is power, and foreign language skills and cultural knowledge empower us personally, professionally, and as global citizens. Foreign language skills and knowledge of other cultures are an essential 21st century social skill for individuals in their personal lives, as professionals in a globalized marketplace, and as global citizens in a globalized world. This study is intended as advocacy research, to support the work of foreign language educators and advocates in the U.S. and beyond, and draws upon the theory and practice of change management, social marketing, and the psychology of influence to effectively address the longstanding deficit in foreign language knowledge among Anglophone Americans, and to a large extent Anglophone societies worldwide, caused in part by a belief that English is the global lingua franca and that no additional languages are needed.

Keywords: foreign language deficit; foreign language skills; multilingualism; global citizens

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5861/ijrsll.2017.1856

*Corresponding Author