Bridge to Award 25 Scholarships to Support Foreign Language Learning for Americans

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As the number of higher education institutions that require learning a foreign language decline, Bridge, a comprehensive international education organization and a longtime leader in the language field, increases its efforts to ensure that Americans do not remain monolingual.

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We hope that awarding 25 scholarships will put the spotlight on the importance of language learning.

Bridge will award 25 intensive Portuguese scholarships at the NAFSA international education conference in May of this year to encourage foreign language study in the U.S.

Over thirty years after the publication of the book The Tongue-Tied American: Confronting the Foreign Language Crisis, the majority of Americans still remain monolingual. In his remarks to the Foreign Language Summit held at the University of Maryland on December 8, 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, pointed out that “The United States is a long way from being the multi-lingual society that so many of our economic competitors are”, stating that only 18% of Americans report speaking a foreign language. This is not surprising considering the following statistics:

  • Only 25% of elementary schools in the US offer foreign language instruction
  • Only 18% of American K-12 students are enrolled in a foreign language course
  • Only 16% of four-year US higher education institutions require that all of their graduates study a foreign language.

The de-emphasis on language learning in U.S. education has become a hot topic in the field of international education, most recently evidenced by The Forum on Education Abroad’s organization of a Fireside Dialogue on the role of language learning in study abroad. The weekend event consisted of rigorous debate by leaders in the language field about the role of language learning in education abroad and importance of having foreign language skills for success in today’s globalized world.

“It seems that everyone in higher education is talking about cultural competence as an essential skill for the 21st century, yet few Americans seem to recognize that learning a foreign language is a direct pathway to developing intercultural skills.” states Lisa Rooney, Vice President of Teacher Training and Education Abroad at Bridge, and one of the invited participants in the Dialogue. “For some reason there exists a disconnect between the two.”

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), on the other hand, has identified the connection between language learning and the development of cultural competency and global awareness, and in conjunction with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, has even created a 21st Century Skills World Languages Map that illustrates the intersection of the core subject of world languages with essential skills for the 21st century. P21 recognizes that “Language education not only contributes to students’ career and college readiness, it also helps develop the individual as language learners take on a new and more invigorating view of the world. This is what makes the language student a 21st Century skilled learner!”

In order to bring more attention to the American language deficit at the upcoming annual NAFSA conference in St. Louis, MO, the largest conference for the field of international education, Bridge has decided to award 25 intensive Portuguese scholarships for study at their school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. When asked why the language chosen was Portuguese, Bridge responded that learning Portuguese is becoming more and more important for many reasons, especially for the business world, as highlighted in a recent article published in Language Magazine.

Bridge has also partnered with Brazilian universities in order to promote the study of Portuguese, including the Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado-FAAP in Sao Paulo, one of the top universities in Brazil to offer extensive Portuguese language and Brazilian history and culture programs. When asked why students today should learn Portuguese, FAAP’s Academic Coordinator for Language and Culture, Professor Silvia Burim, pointed out that “Portuguese is the third most spoken European language in the world […], the sixth most spoken language worldwide, the fifth most spoken language on the web and the third most used language on Facebook. The search for Portuguese courses has grown significantly due to Brazil's position in the economical world scenario.”

“We hope that awarding 25 scholarships will put the spotlight on the importance of language learning in general, and Portuguese study specifically, amongst leaders in international education, but we know that there is a lot more work to be done.” Rooney stated. “We invite others to join Bridge in our advocacy efforts, with the ultimate intention of molding a new America that is no longer tongue-tied.”

About Bridge: Founded in 1983, Bridge Linguatec, Inc d/b/a/Bridge is a world leader in language education abroad. An international company with headquarters in Denver, Colorado, and affiliate centers in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, Bridge offers a wide spectrum of language related products and services, including language training and immersion programs, teacher training and development courses, language testing, translation and interpretation services, international student recruitment and cross-cultural travel programs including international service learning, internships, language study and teaching English abroad.

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Lisa Rooney
Bridge
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