Conference to Address Status of Less Commonly Taught Languages in the U.S.


DATE: April 12, 2006

CONTACT: Antonia Schleicher, Executive Director, National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages, (608) 265-7906 or



Madison, WI — The Ninth Annual Meeting of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) will be held in Madison April 27-30, 2006 at the Madison Concourse Hotel, 1 West Dayton St., Madison. The conference, whose theme is “Expanding the LCTL Capacities in the United States,” will explore issues surrounding heritage language learning, bilingual education, distance learning, outreach and advocacy initiatives, as well as the use of technology in teaching less-commonly taught languages, including controversies and pedagogical implications in the teaching of Arabic.

The Council, which is based at UW-Madison, has as its mission to increase the number of Americans who choose to learn one or more of the less-commonly taught languages as a means of enhancing cross-cultural communication among citizens of the United States. The Council’s work focuses on the less-commonly taught languages which are becoming increasingly vital to the economic, social and political welfare of the United States. The Council estimates that only nine percent of Americans who study foreign languages choose languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Yoruba, Russian, Swahili, or other languages spoken by the overwhelming majority of people around the world. The low level of current enrollments, the Council maintains, jeopardizes the existence of those few existing programs and restricts access to language learning opportunities for a majority of students in the U.S.

Several dozen participants will give talks in a series of parallel sessions. Featured speakers at the conference include:

  • 9:00 a.m., Friday, April 28 — Gail McGinn, Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense for Plans in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Mrs. McGinn will deliver the keynote speech describing the current status of defense language transformation within the Department. She will give details on the Bush administration’s National Security Language Initiative, an initiative undertaken by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies and educational organizations to expand the foreign language capacities of the United States.
  • 1:30 p.m., Friday, April 28 — Ralph Hines, Director, International Education Programs Service, U.S. Department of Education. IEPS performs planning, policy development and grant administration functions for the 14 international higher education programs authorized under Title VI of the Higher Education Act and the Fulbright-Hayes Act. These programs improve study and research in foreign languages, area studies and international affairs.

For more information on the conference schedule, go to

Chief sponsors of the conference are the Council and the UW-Madison Division of International Studies. Other sponsors include member programs of the International Institute; the Department of African Languages and Literature; the Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies with the support of the Ettinger Family Foundation; the National African Language Resource Center; the UW-Madison College of Letters and Science; Center for East Asian Studies; Center for South Asia; Center for European Studies; Global Studies; South East Asian studies; Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies; the Department of German; and the UW Lectures Committee.