E.g., 11/18/2019
E.g., 11/18/2019

The New Commission on Language of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

By: Bill Rivers, Executive Director - Joint National Committee for Languages & National Council for Languages and International Studies

On July 31 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced the formation of its Commission on Language Learning in response to requests from the United States Congress to answer questions about why languages matter to the national interest in 2015 and what might be done to improve the US situation with respect to foreign languages. Specifically, Congress wants to know why language matters to economic growth, cultural diplomacy, and the attainment and fulfillment of all Americans. The Commission will be adding more members in the coming weeks and will start its public work in the fall.

For GALA and its members, the Commission is a prime opportunity to present the language industry to the public, explaining how we are on the cutting edge of the 21st century information economy and how our companies leverage an enormous and disproportionate amount of global trade. Moreover, we can—and need to—explain how localization, translation, and all of the other language services we provide are highly technologized, 21st century professional services. The Commission can serve as a venue for that discussion as well. Too many policy-makers and too much of the general public either do not know anything about the language industry or have antiquated notions of what we do and how we work.

Finally, and most importantly, the Commission and its members will speak on our behalf. From the industry’s side, we need Fortune 500 clients to speak up about the value-add provided by the language industry. We need corporate and political leaders from outside our world to advocate for us—pushing for more opportunities to learn languages, for more R&D in language sciences, for more advanced training in translation, interpreting, localization, and other areas, and for broader language access.  As the language industry’s global voice, GALA is uniquely positioned to speak to these issues as they relate to the largest language market in the world.

Bill Rivers

Dr. Bill Rivers serves as the Executive Director of the Joint National Committee for Languages, representing more than 140 organizations from all sectors of the Language Enterprise in Washington, DC. A long-time researcher, strategic planner, and business leader, he advocates for language with the US Government and the business community. Having received his Ph.D. in Russian, Dr. Rivers has lived and worked in more than 20 countries.