President attends summit, learns of National Security Foreign Language Initiative

U President Michael Young was informed of a new foreign language program while attending a university presidents summit co-hosted by the U.S. Departments of State and Education early this month.

Invited by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Young met with other university presidents and listened to the initiative offered by President Bush.

“The president announced the National Security Foreign Language Initiative,” Young said. “This initiative is comparable to the call for education in math and science after Sputnik was launched.”

The initiative’s goal is to aid national security through education, especially in the development of foreign language skills. U administrators expect it to be an asset for the U, which already places heavy emphasis on foreign languages.

John Francis, associate vice president for academic affairs and undergraduate studies, said the U has plans to expand international focuses and will take advantage of any resources offered.

“The initiative comes with money-I don’t know how much, that depends on Congress,” he said. “But we must be well prepared for when the federal government has funds available.”

Young said that Bush would use the initiative to place importance on “critical need” languages-namely Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Russian and Farsi.

“These languages are projected to be very important in the future,” Young said. “They either do have or will have international implications down the road.”

Young noted the initiative plays well to the university’s strengths, saying that the U already does well in learning and teaching foreign languages. He hypothesized that the U is second only to BYU in having students fluent in foreign languages.

Francis noted the U’s Middle East Center, popular Russian and Chinese language classes and a commitment to include Hindi in the Asian Studies Program.

Because of these programs, Young did not anticipate any major changes to the university’s objectives coming from the initiative.

“The initiative will provide more assistance than what we had before,” Young said. “We will use enthusiasm for the initiative to tap into other resources, but our main goal will stay the same.”

Young said that a major problem schools face in teaching foreign languages is the lack of instructors. He said that the initiative must also try to train more students to become masters.

“The hiring of instructors proficient in the language being taught will likely be the main infusion of funding,” Francis said.

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