The U.S. State Department announced a plan on Thursday to boost teaching and learning "critical need" foreign languages from Kindergarten through university as part of an effort to "further strengthen national security and prosperity in the 21st century."
The plan, "the National Security Language Initiative," would dramatically increase the number of Americans learning "critical need" foreign languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi and Farsi, the department said in a statement.
President George W. Bush would request Congress for 114 million U.S. dollars in fiscal 2007 budget to fund the project.
The statement said an essential component of U.S. national security in the post-Sept.11 world was "the ability to engage foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical regions, to encourage reform, promote understanding, convey respect for other cultures."
To this end, "we must be able to communicate in other languages, a challenge for which we are unprepared," the statement said.
Lack of proficient people in foreign languages "negatively affects our national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence communities and cultural understanding," the statement said.
This also "prevents us from effectively communicating in foreign media environments, hurts counter-terrorism efforts, and hamstrings our capacity to work with people and governments in post-conflict zones and to promote mutual understanding," the statement added.
The comprehensive national plan had three broad goals: expanding the number of Americans mastering "critical need" languages and starting at a younger age; increasing the number of advanced-level speakers of foreign languages, with an emphasis on critical need languages, and increasing the number of foreign language teachers.
In addition, the Pentagon said that in a separate program it intended to spend 750 million dollars, over a span of five years beginning in fiscal 2007, on efforts to increase foreign language proficiency within the military.