Following the America’s Languages report, the WG has defined its goal as “access to all of America’s languages for all of its learners.” By “America’s Languages” we mean indigenous, colonial, immigrant, Sign, and our so-called ‘foreign’ or ‘world’ languages, with an emphasis on the less commonly taught. By “all its learners” we focus on historically underserved learners from emergent bilingual communities (American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Latino/a/x, heritage, immigrant, refugee, English Learner) as well as People of Color and disadvantaged rural and urban populations.
We are a multilingual country of indigenous and immigrant languages. All are our languages, each worthy of being part of our language education system. We have adopted the term “America’s Languages” from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences report to ensure and strengthen valorization and support of all this nation’s languages. We accept it as a useful and popular meme, as witnessed by its growing acceptance: e.g. ‘America’s Languages Caucus’ in the U.S. Congress.
We readily acknowledge that residents of North, Central and South America are ‘Americans’ in the broadest sense, and the languages they speak are likewise properly understood as the languages of all the Americas. We embrace the use of “America’s Languages” as signaling an association with this broader scope, as approximately two thirds of what the U.S. Census calls “Foreign Language Speakers” in the United States are speakers of Spanish and other languages of the Americas, Central and South. Except for our Native American peoples, whose tribal areas indeed can also cross our national boarders, all of us and our languages are brought here from around the world and especially now from the Americas. Indeed, we welcome the association of “America’s Languages” with the linguistic and cultural legacy of all the Americas.
Within its broad social justice mandate of inclusion, the new Portal encompasses the full range of distinct communities of Historically Underserved Learners with unique goals and challenges. For example:
· Native American programs may focus on growing the number of learners and their languages; teaching their ELs; or sharing their languages with non-natives.
· The rural and urban poor across America contend with school board decisions inhibiting support of language education due to economically conditions or apprehensive about recent immigrants.
· Language education in heritage, immigrant, and refugee communities varies according to the generations involved (first, second and beyond). Their priorities range from mostly English learning, to maintaining parents’ and grandparents’ language, to ensuring that more languages are taught in weekend schools, to partnering with local schools and districts.
· Black and Latinx populations may address segregation in schools and districts that serve their communities; guaranteeing agency of Latinx learners in classrooms with majority native English learners; or ‘translanguaging’ and ‘Spanishes’.
Each of these communities define for themselves what ‘equitable access’ means, as each is unique, albeit with notable sociopolitical overlap among them.
Inclusion on the Portal
Programs are evaluated in terms of the number of historically underserved learners enrolled as well as by the diversity of enrollments. They also identify strategies, rhetoric, and innovations (the ‘magic sauce’) that attract and accommodate more and more diverse underserved learners. Also, a program's approach in overcoming challenging local conditions may also play a significant role in determining whether a program may serve as a model for emulation. To be clear: Portal programs here are not intended to reflect the state of language education broadly writ in these communities; they display a resolved focus on access and equity with accountability for underserved learners and languages.