Civilian Language Education in America: How the Air Force and Academia Can Thrive Together
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL AIR FORCE RESEARCH INST
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The Quadrennial Defense Review QDR of 2006 first proposed that Department of Defense DOD language planners focus on preaccession language education instead of spending time and treasure to teach foreign languages to recruits and second-termers, a proposal echoed in the QDR of 2010. Since preaccession language education almost always connotes formal college and university coursework, it appears that the last two QDRs seek to strengthen the linguistic skills of the officer corps. However, a lack of both direction for and understanding of what this nations language education system can provide continues to hamstring efforts to expand preaccession language training. We are still feeling the effects of changes in foreign language education in America that occurred in the World War I era. The decades prior to that war saw robust enrollment in foreign language courses, in both high schools and colleges, reflecting the countrys strong immigrant heritage. The study of German had acquired prestige status as Americas public schools embraced Germanys model of instruction. Many people considered German the language of the educated person consequently, it comprised about 24 percent of all language instruction in public high schools in 1915. Only the traditional study of Latin boasted a higher enrollment 37.3 percent. Moreover, one third of all US universities required applicants to have studied German or French for two to four years, and fully 85 percent demanded that prospective students pass a foreign language competency test prior to matriculation.
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