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6 *NEW* Language Bills That Might Become Law in 2019

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

The story we tell –of how languages matter to national security, economic growth, and the fulfillment of the potential of all Americans– resonates with Members of Congress. Here are 6 bills to prove it.

Your actions and advocacy have propelled an unprecedented and comprehensive legislative package through the halls of Congress. And as Congress returns from summer recess, WE, the language community, may reflect on a very active year on Capitol Hill in advancing a broad agenda for languages in the United States.

The work that language advocates have done over the past seven years, whether coming to Capitol Hill for JNCL-NCLIS Language Advocacy Day, or during other language advocacy events for the American Translators Association, the Association of Language Companies, and the American Classics League, builds trust on the Hill with the members and staff whose support we need. And it has led directly to this moment.

There are six bipartisan bills advancing through the 116th Congress, all of which have a realistic chance of becoming law.

Moreover, they all respond to specific recommendations in America’s Languages, the report of the Commission on Language Learning of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And here they are.....!!!


1. The World Languages Advancement and Readiness Act.

Incorporated as an amendment into the House of Representatives’ version of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), it passed the House unanimously in June 2019. And then on July 29, Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Cory Booker introduced the Senate version of WLARA as a standalone bill. Our current strategy, working in close consultation with supporters in both the House and Senate, is to secure passage of the amendment in the FY2020 NDAA. As the House and Senate have passed different versions of the NDAA, these differences will be resolved in a conference committee. We have reached out to members of the conference committee, as have our supporters on Capitol Hill. Stay tuned, as this will evolve rapidly throughout September. Many thanks to Rep. David Price and Rep. Don Young for continue to champion this bill in the House. –Read more on WLARA (H.R.1094; S.2307)


2. The Defense Language Improvement Act

As with WLARA, the DLI Act was incorporated as an amendment to the House version of the NDAA. Why? Today’s service members in uniform need to be equipped with the necessary tools to maintain positive relations and foresee potential situations at home and abroad. This bill expands the educational opportunities for service members who graduate from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), the premier foreign language institutions in the nation, by offering students a BA in world language study. –Read more on DLI. (H.R.3185)


3. The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Program Reauthorization Act

When JNCL-NCLIS participated in the United Nation's opening ceremony in New York City to begin the International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019), we made a promise to do all we could to reverse the critical decline facing Native languages across the country. Esther Martinez Act is critical to revitalizing Native languages and cultures. This June, the Senate approved Esther unanimously. Now the House Committee on Education and Labor must act! JNCL-NCLIS is part of a broad coalition working to secure more co-sponsors for this bill, in order to bring it to the floor for a vote in the House; –Read more on Esther (H.R.912; S.256)



4. The Reaching English Learners Act

One of the few bill that would directly address the bilingual teacher shortage in the US, this bill has been introduced in both the House (Rep. Jim Langevin) and the Senate (Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto) to better prepare educators with the necessary tools to guide classrooms of multilingual and multicultural children. –Read more on RELA; (H.R.1153; S.545)


5. The Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching Act (a.k.a. the BEST Act)

The Seal of Biliteracy, in a span of a few years, has swept the nation as one of the most important and beneficial ways of recognizing bilingual graduating high school students. Right now, all 50 states in the Union have some version of this award, and the BEST Act would nudge states to support and expand this amazing opportunity. This bill has been introduced in the House by California Representative, Julia Brownley, a pioneer of the Seal in the state. JNCL-NCLIS is working with Rep. Brownley as well as several Senate offices on a Senate version. –Read more on the BEST Act (H.R.3119)


6. The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act

This bill was introduced by Mr. Simon’s close-colleague and friend, Senator Dick Durbin (IL), and is sitting in the Senate Education (HELP) committee. JNCL-NCLIS is part of a broad coalition of advocates asking that more be done to advance the America’s Languages recommendation to increase the amount of students studying abroad each year. –Read more on the Paul Simon Act; (S.1198)


There’s genuine support in the Congress, on both sides of the aisle, for what we do –for what YOU do. Your hard work –in the classroom, in the community, as teachers, interpreters, translators, owners and leaders of language companies, as well as your advocacy in person here in DC, in your state capitols, and your support for policy alerts– matters. And it’s making a difference nationally. Thank you.

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