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American Academy to Launch National Study on Foreign Language Learning

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has formed a national commission to examine the current state of language education and conduct the first national study on foreign language learning in more than 30 years.

The commission will work with scholarly and professional organizations to review research about the benefits of foreign language instruction with the goal of starting a "nationwide conversation" about the need for investment in foreign languages and international education.

The American Academy formed the commission in response to a bipartisan request from Congress to determine how language learning influences economic growth, cultural diplomacy, and the productivity of future generations. The lawmakers made the case that America is increasingly multilingual and Americans are more engaged internationally than ever before.

"Language learning should be among our highest educational priorities in the 21st century," American Academy President Jonathan Fanton said in a statement.

"By reviewing existing practices and proposing new ideas, the Academy's Commission will advance the conversation about language education, focusing on a body of knowledge and a set of skills that will become more critical as communications between and among cultures increases."

Paul LeClerc, the director of the Columbia University Global Center in Paris, will serve as commission chair, leading a group of national experts in education, research, business, and government. The panel will explore what the nation's language education needs will be in the future and offer recommendations on how to meet those needs.

Martha Abbott, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language, is among the commissioners appointed thus far.

Abbott said the last major national report on language learning was Strength Through Wisdom: A Critique of U.S. Capability, published in 1979 by the President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies.

In a release, Abbott said the ACTFL will work with the academy to coordinate the release of the report with the launch of a public awareness campaign, dubbed Lead with Languages.

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