Massachusetts Senator Elect Elizabeth Warren to Be Foreign Language Advocate in Washington
An interview with the Massachusetts senator elect by foreign language professor Nicole Sherf
As Advocacy Coordinator of the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA), I have served as the official delegate of Massachusetts to a conference that is held in Washington DC every May called the Joint National Committee on Languages (JNCL) and National Council on Languages and International Studies (NCLIS) Delegate’s Assembly and Legislative Day. Through this conference, I am updated on foreign language friendly legislation and initiatives and charged with seeking MA Senator and Representative support for them. We now have an important ally and strong foreign language supporter in Senator Elect Elizabeth Warren. Warren’s views on the importance of foreign languages as a core of a world class education are outlined in an interview that I conducted with her for MaFLA, an excerpt of which can be found here. For the full interview, please go to the National Advocacy page of the MaFLA Website: http://mafla.org/advocacy-2/national-news/
Nicole Sherf: Did you have the opportunity to study a language in K-16? If so, what language and how was your language learning experience?
Elizabeth Warren: I studied French in eighth grade and Spanish in high school and college. I wish I’d had more opportunities to be exposed to a foreign language and to understand why learning other languages is so important. At that time, we didn’t fully understand all of the economic and national security implications of studying a foreign language. There’s no doubt in my mind that every student should have that experience.
Nicole Sherf: Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta constantly speaks of the national need for competency in multiple languages. Do you agree?
Elizabeth Warren: I agree that the ability to communicate in foreign languages is desirable personally and is becoming increasingly necessary both for economic and national security reasons. American businesses need more people who know foreign languages in order to gain critical access to overseas markets, and our government needs more people who know foreign languages in order to further our foreign policy agenda and protect our national security.
Nicole Sherf: Many agree that proficiency in other languages is critical to our national security and global prosperity. Have you had an opportunity to use other languages in dealing with these or other concerns?
Elizabeth Warren: As a teacher, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with students from many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. I’ve seen the benefits of speaking multiple languages first-hand, and I’ve watched some of my bilingual and multilingual students go on to make a real difference in the world.
Nicole Sherf: Many states have foreign language graduation requirements or have established exit foreign language proficiency levels for graduates. Though Massachusetts is known nationally for providing high quality education, we have not yet adopted this type of mandate. What role do you feel foreign languages play in a world class education?
Elizabeth Warren: Learning a foreign language is very important to a world-class education. I agree with the Department of Education’s position that foreign languages cannot be seen as just an “add-on” in either K-12 or higher education. Part of what we need is a shift toward a view that learning a foreign language is a core part of a well-rounded education. Knowing a language benefits students in so many ways: it broadens their outlooks, sharpens their critical thinking and writing skills, prepares them for serving the country, and enables them to compete in an increasingly interconnected world.