Americans Learning Languages

“The bill, called the International Studies Higher Education Act (HR 3077), reauthorizes about $80 million in funding for international and foreign language study, but with a twist – now the government would allocate more resources to programs that emphasize national security.”

Speaking in ‘approved’ tongues, Kimberly Chase, from the March 11, 2004 edition Christian Science Monitor

Language professors are reported to be up in arms, but selective funding of language study is hardly a new phenomenon. My bachelor’s degree was partly funded by the US government, at a time when President Reagan was cutting most education funding. Apparently Casper Weinberger (Reagan’s Secretary of Defense) argued to preserve funding for certain kinds of language studies, on national security grounds; I was paid for almost every semester that I studied Hindi and Urdu, including my study abroad year in India.

What the government hoped to get out of this was obvious: On my first visit to the Department of Oriental and African Languages and Literatures (DOALL) at the University of Texas, I couldn’t help noticing the announcement of a CIA recruiting visit to campus, prominently displayed on one of the bulletin boards. Printed into the CIA letterhead were the words: “Central Intelligence Agency – Don’t You Think It’s Time We Got to Know Each Other Better?”

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