Languages and America

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If you are an Arabic speaker in America these days, Uncle Sam wants you badly. The Army and Marines are paying ten thousand dollar signing bonuses for fluent Arabic speakers. The CIA is paying up to thirty-five thousand, just to join. And still, the United States finds itself nearly deaf and dumb in many critical languages.

Last week, President Bush announced a new crash program to train Americans — from kindergarten on up — in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Urdu, Russian, and Central Asian languages. Some say it's too little too late. But it's a high-profile push away from French, German, Italian and the "uno, dos, tres" lessons that dominate today.

Hear about national security, a new world, and the new frontier of American language study.


Rosemary Feal, Executive Director of The Modern Language Association and former Professor of Spanish at State University of New York in Buffalo, NY.

Amira El-Zein, Professor of Arabic at Tufts University.

Michael Janofsky, reporter for the New York Times.

This program aired on January 10, 2006.


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