Language advocates lobby Congress for language education and industry priorities

Reprinted with permission from Maria Pulcini and JNCL-NCLIS.

On February 15-16, the Joint National Committee for Languages – National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), the authority on language policy in Washington, DC, hosted its annual conference, Language Advocacy Day. Unique in the field, the event affords the opportunity for those in the language learning and language access sectors to advocate collectively to federal policymakers for better policies and regulations. Every year, JNCL-NCLIS convenes over one hundred advocates from the language professions–educators, researchers, administrators, translators and interpreters, and more–in Washington to meet with Congress and request legislation and funding in support of language education and industry priorities.

This year’s conference was attended by nearly 125 participants from 32 states and Washington, DC who conducted over 175 meetings with Congressional and Executive Branch offices. During these meetings, advocates made requests for Congress to fund existing federal language programs in the Departments of Education, State, and Defense as well as initiatives in other agencies; to cosponsor new legislation to enhance world language education in K-12 and higher education; and to examine and ultimately eliminate the federal government’s use of Lowest-Price Technically Acceptable bidding model for the procurement of language services. Conference attendees participated in advocacy training and issue briefings beforehand, prepared by JNCL-NCLIS.

Continuing the rate of growth of the last few years, Language Advocacy Day in 2018 set a record for the number of Congressional and Executive Branch meetings held. Moreover, 2018 featured a Thunderclap, a social media amplification tool, which sent the same, uniform post in support of language advocacy to a social reach of over 600,000. The Thunderclap was hosted by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and included a link for advocates not participating in Language Advocacy Day in person to contact Congress in support of HR 1239, the World Language Advancement and Readiness Act. In essence, this means that the collective message delivered during Language Advocacy Day reached a substantially larger audience than previous years, opening more doorways to influence policy in support of language priorities throughout 2018 and beyond.

From Keely Lake:

Dr. Keely Lake, WAFLT’s JNCL-NCLIS Delegate for 2018, met with Tim Carlton in Congressman Grothman’s office, Carly Cerak in Senator Johnson’s office, and Brian Moulton in Senator Baldwin’s office.  In each case she had productive conversations about the human value of learning languages as well as the role of language proficiency in the areas economics and national defense. In addition, she joined a larger delegation to the offices of the National Endowment for the  Humanities. The staff there briefed the delegation on the programs and offerings which could help teachers at all levels.  If you do not yet use their resources, please visit  For instance, you can find newspapers in many languages from 1836-1922. So much to explore and employ!


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