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Bush Proposes to Expand Foreign Language Teaching

I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

President Bush has proposed to increase the study of foreign languages in American schools.

The new plan is called the National Security Language Initiative. It will involve the departments of State, Education and Defense, and the director of National Intelligence.

The plan calls for teaching foreign languages to more children, as early as the age of four. It also aims to increase foreign language instruction in college and graduate school. The hope is to bring more foreign language speakers into government service.

And it calls for expanding an effort begun three years ago to increase the number of military officers who speak foreign languages.

Most of the new teaching would be in languages not widely taught now in American schools. These include Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi and Russian.

Administration officials will ask for one hundred fourteen million dollars in two thousand seven to start the program. They say too many American children learn only English. They say only forty-four percent of American high school students take any foreign language. And seventy percent of those are learning Spanish.

Officials say money would be used to help foreign-language students pay for their education in exchange for future service. The plan also calls for sending more American students to other countries for part of their college studies. And it calls for bringing more foreign language teaching assistants to the United States.

Officials say the United States does not have enough foreign language teachers. Research shows that children have an easier time than adults learning languages. Yet less than one-third of American elementary schools teach languages other than English. And experts say most of these schools just teach the basics, not how to speak a foreign language well.

President Bush says America needs intelligence officers who can understand languages likes Arabic, Farsi or Urdu. But he says that is not the only reason for the program. He says it will also show that Americans care enough about other cultures to learn to speak their language.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Internet users can read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.