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National Summit at the University of Maryland Speaks to Vital U.S. Language Needs

(Photo - Left to Right) CASL Deputy Executive Director and University Professor Amy Weinberg, CIA Director Leon Panetta, U.S. Representative Rush Holt, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Under Secretary of State for Management Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley. )


COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- University of Maryland President Wallace Loh opened a summit that brought together policymakers, members of Congress, Intelligence Community officials, language educators and other university academics to explore how government and academia can better collaborate to advance the study of foreign languages. The December 8th summit was cosponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency and the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL).


"Languages are not a luxury: they are a necessity," said Loh. "Expanding foreign language proficiency, using new technologies in language instruction and developing best practices for language instruction -- all require input from the great mix of people here today," he said noting that the university is very proud to be home to the Center for Advanced Study of Language, the nation's first language research center focused on national security. Among the dignitaries welcomed by President Loh were keynote speakers Leon Panetta, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.


Panetta and Duncan both cited the critical need for more foreign language proficiency in the U.S., a need which they said was growing ever more important to the nation's security and global competitiveness.


Language is the window through which we come to know other peoples and cultures, Director Panetta said in his remarks. For the United States to get to where it needs to be will require a national commitment to strengthening America's foreign language proficiency. A significant cultural change needs to occur."


Secretary of Education Duncan said: "It's absolutely essential for the citizens of the United States to become fluent in other languages -- and schools, colleges and universities must include producing bilingual students as a central part of their mission.


"It is an honor to be here at the University of Maryland which has worked closely with the Department of Education for more than 20 years to advance the teaching of languages such as Hebrew, Farsi, Chinese, and Russian," Duncan said during his talk.


Other speakers at the summit included U.S. Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who has written legislation to increase federal funding for foreign language education, Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management; and Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. In afternoon sessions summit participants discussed ways of expanding foreign language proficiency, strategies and best practices for language instruction, and the potential benefit of new technologies.


Critical Language Research & Education at UMD


Language in its many facets is an institutional priority at the University of Maryland, underpinned by some of the finest centers and programs in language research and language education in the country. These include:


The National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) , one of nation's leading centers for research and practical solutions for real language problems, works to improve the capacity of the U.S. to communicate in languages other than English. One of the center's many projects is STARTALK, which provides learning opportunities in critical languages for students (K-16) and for professional development for teachers of critical languages. Currently, programs are being implemented in Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.


The School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures is the primary academic unit on the University of Maryland's College Park campus devoted to instruction and research in the world's languages, literatures, and cultures.


The University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) seeks to foster and enhance interdisciplinary research and education in computing across the Maryland campus. One of its areas of research and expertise is machine analysis of text. Its Computational Linguistics and Informational Processing, center focuses in part on several areas of broadscale multilingual processing, such as scalable translingual document detection, and cross-language information retrieval.


The Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory (CNL) aims to bridge the gap between theoretical and computational models of human language and the brain-level mechanisms which support language. The researchers in the Lab pursue an integrated approach to this problem, combining the study of linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, language acquisition and psycholinguistics, genetic disorders and computational modeling.


The University of Maryland Confucius Institute, the first in the world, teaches Chinese language and culture to the greater Washington region.


Contacts: Lee Tune, 301 405 4679 or

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Taken on December 8, 2010