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African American Linguists (AAL)

Promoting World Languages in the African American Community

A Global Society

Ronda Zelezny-Green, English as a Foreign Language Teacher in South Korea

Currently the United States is becoming more globalized due to the interdependent world of the twenty- first century. The free worldwide movement of people, information, and resources, enabled by advances in technology has caused the business, economic, and military communities to rely on the education system to prepare students with oral proficiency in a world language (Brecht & Rivers 1999). The United States should strive to educate students who are linguistically and culturally prepared to communicate effectively in a pluralistic American society and abroad (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages 1996). One no longer has to travel abroad to witness the growing demand for world language learning due to the fact that the United States is a melting pot to which many cultures assimilate.

Hispanic Population on the Rise

The browning of the United States is a ubiquitous topic that scholars, researchers, and analysts are investigating. According to the U.S. Census (2011), the U.S. Office of Management and Budgets (OMG) defines Black or African-American as anyone who has origins in the Black racial groups of Africa (Rastogi, Johnson, Hoeffel, & Drewery, 2011, p. 2). Commensurately, Latino is defined as anyone with Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. My study uses the terms Latino and Hispanic interchangeably. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Briefs (Ennis, Ríos-Vargas, Albert, 2011), the Latino population increased 43% from 35.3 million to 50.4 million between 2000 and 2010 (Ennis, 2011, p. 3). In comparison, the Black population increased by 12% from 34.7 million to 38.9 million over the same time period. These data reflect a racial shift in the total U.S. population, bringing the Latino and Black populations to 16.3% and 13.6% (Rastogi et al.). Such dramatic shifts have caused some states to now comprise a majority minority population (CA, D.C., HI, NM, TX).OMG defines White as anyone having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa (Hixson, Hepler, Kim, 2011, p. 2). The White alone population grew by 6 % from 211.5 million to 223.6 million. But while the White alone population rose numeri­cally from the 2000 to the 2010 census, its proportion of the total population declined from 75% to 72%. 

U.S. Population Demographic

2000 U.S.


2010 U.S.


Increase from 2000-2010

Proportion of the total U.S. population


35.3 million

50.4 million


Rose to 16.3%


34.7 million

38.9 million


Rose to 13.6%


211.5 million

223.6 million


Declined from

75% to 72%

Review of Literature

As the Spanish-speaking population grows, there is also an increase in the enrollment in Spanish at the secondary level. A nationwide project conducted by Draper and Hicks (2002) entitled Foreign Language Enrollments in Public Secondary Schools, 2000, reported that Spanish continues to dominate world language instruction in the United States. Spanish accounts for almost 70% (68.7%) of all language enrollments in grades 7-12. From 1994-2000 while most languages had declined or remained steady, Spanish enrollment increased by 3%, causing the number of students enrolled to jump to 800, 000 (Draper & Hicks 2002). Increased interest in world language study has been strengthened in recent years by the recognition that oral proficiency in more than one language is advantageous to both the learner and the larger society (Marcos & Peyton 2000).

Comments from AAL Member:

  • The world is so vast and there is a plethora of other cultures and languages of which to be knowledgeable. I want to truly be a global citizen. In order to achieve that, I must be knowledgeable of other cultures and the languages that are associated with them. Tamara Hughes, NC
  • Learning a new language and culture will open up your world, enable you to be a more complete world citizen (and will help you to appreciate those immigrants among us whose first language is not English). It also helps you identify with your own roots and your own culture and language as you study one that is foreign to you, resulting in a newfound discovery of one's own life experience. Being bilingual makes you the equivalent of two people! It's the key to our world! Michele Anberg-Espinosa, CA
  • The African-American community can use more bilingual people to contribute to their communities being that many of their communities are now very integrated with Blacks and Hispanics. Having people such as I, with the ability to communicate to both parties can serve the purpose of bridging the gap between both communities and forming a stronger bond between two groups that already share the common bond of being minority groups. Stephanie Brown, NY
  • Consider studying languages as a way to gain a window into the world and to prepare for a more globally connected future. Gyl Mattioli, GA
  • The world is becoming smaller due to the globalization phenomenon. Bridging global gaps in linguistics will only help to broaden one's horizons. Anthony Duvall, OH

Meaningful Careers in World Languages

This data was obtained from Universal Highways, Inc

The demand for personnel with language skills is apparent in many different types and places of work.


The types of companies needing management and sales personnel with foreign language skills cover the whole spectrum of the business world. In their operations, they find that foreign language proficiency is an enormous advantage, both in the United States and in their overseas offices. International advertising is a highly specialized activity; its prime purpose, of course, is to promote the sale of American products overseas.

1. There is a trend toward the expansion of business operations beyond the borders of the United States even by firms of moderate size.

2. There is a clear indication that business firms often attempt to reach market segments made up of people in the United States with specific cultural background that may include language differences.

3. There is recognition on the part of business firms that effective communication is an essential element of good operational supervision and management. Language differences between workers and supervisors pose a problem when the work force is drawn from an environment characterized by pluralistic cultural backgrounds.


As international business and industry expand, international banking and financial activity naturally follows. Today one fourth of all new direct investment goes abroad.


Companies with overseas plants that manufacture machinery and equipment used abroad are likely to need technical and engineering personnel with foreign language proficiency.


In the business world, the range of languages and fields is so vast that some employment agencies maintain permanent advertisements for bilingual secretaries and typists. The bilingual secretary positions have been described as a “rare commodity.”


The Federal Government is the largest employer of Americans with foreign language skills, both in this country and abroad. The following U.S. Government departments and agencies require personnel with language skills.

Department of State

The U.S. Department of State employs more than 15,000 Americans in its 300 diplomatic and consular offices around the world. Overseas, they have extensive contact with foreigners, interpreting U.S. foreign policy, protecting the interests of Americans abroad, processing visas, and carrying on intelligence work. The other agencies requiring at least one foreign language from most of the employees are: Agency for International Development (AID); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS); U.S. Customs Services; United States Information Agency (USIA); and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

National Security Agency; Library of Congress

Library of Congress personnel utilize foreign languages in a wide range of activities: acquisition, cataloging and classification, reference and research. The Library uses over 450 languages in connection with its more than 19 million books and pamphlets, the majority of which are in non-English languages.


In areas where large numbers of citizens do not speak English local governments need employees with foreign language skills.


The UN is the largest employer of language specialists - translators, editors, interpreters - in this country. Its purpose is to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, and to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems.


Approximately 100,000 people in this country work in the field of foreign language teaching in Jr. & Sr. High Schools, in colleges and universities, elementary schools and in commercial and government-operated language schools.


Interpreting deals with oral communication. The greatest demand is in Spanish. At present, interpreters for the Federal courts are certified after passing an extremely rigorous examination in English and Spanish.

The translator is required to produce clear, accurate, and well-written renderings of foreign language texts, from general reports and speeches to literary works and highly technical subject matter. Many translators specialize in one profession like business, religion, education, law, engineering or public services.


Journalism -- The knowledge of foreign languages is an important asset to employment in journalism. A significant number of newspapers have indicated that foreign language skills are needed in the profession because they enhance a reporter's effectiveness.

Radio & Television -- There are over 300 radio stations throughout the U.S. that broadcast programs in foreign languages -- French, German, Italian, Spanish and many others. Some stations producing language education programs. Language skills are needed by the program writers and announcers at most radio or television stations.

Film -- Film production is one of the most international of the arts in which technical skill and artistic talent transcend national boundaries. Writers, performers, executives and technicians may need a foreign language in order to have a thorough knowledge of their subject, to communicate with the people being filmed, and with each other, to prepare scripts, or simply to get along in the foreign country where they are working.

Publishing -- Positions as editor, editorial assistant, copywriter, proofreader, technical writer, salesperson, and secretarial worker are available in the field of publishing. Foreign language skills are useful for the staffs of many publishing houses, especially those that market their books abroad, or publish translations and foreign language textbooks.


Transportation Companies

Airlines, railroads, bus and ship lines need bilingual personnel to serve foreign passengers or other ethnic groups within the United States.

Hotels, Motels and Convention Centers

Hotels and convention centers are now hiring desk clerks, telephone operators, information staff administrators, hosts and hostesses who can provide better service to visitors from abroad and enhance their employer's reputation by knowing a foreign language.


As the influx of foreign visitors to America continues, guided excursion tours will require personnel with language skills. Many such excursions and tours are now being sold as part of package arrangements for tourists from abroad. There is a need not only for bilingual guides on sightseeing excursions in cities and to tourist attractions.


Health Professions

Health professionals of all kinds are finding more and more that a knowledge of certain foreign languages is urgently needed in dealing with patients, especially in metropolitan areas where there are many ethnic minorities -- people who are unable to speak English well enough to describe their symptoms or understand medical instructions. Many hospitals in the U.S. have hired bilingual personnel and/or freelance consultants to serve as interpreters and translators.

Social Work

Social Workers assist individuals, families, groups and communities when dealing with problems such as poverty, unemployment, poor housing or illness. In cities where there are concentrations of minority groups and immigrants, social workers come into contact with many people who do not speak English.

Library Science

The librarian may use foreign language skills in a variety of ways including book selection, classifying and cataloging, serving users who speak other languages, and working abroad in U.S. Government libraries, centers, and schools or those operated by other organizations.

Service Organizations

Many social service organizations need people with foreign language ability, both in this country and abroad. The Red Cross, and other charitable and service organizations sometimes need bilingual workers and volunteers to work with other ethnic groups.

Law & Law Enforcement

Over 650,000 Americans work as lawyers; knowledge of a foreign language can be a direct, practical asset to the lawyer who works with members of the ethnic minority and immigrant groups. In law enforcement, police officers investigate crimes, and a knowledge of foreign language skills would be an extremely important advantage. Other police protection occupations include sheriffs, state police officers and state highway patrol officers.

Fire Fighters

Can you imagine fire fighters who can not understand what somebody in a house in fire is telling them or who can not tell a speaker of another language where to go and what to do in an emergency situation?

Volunteer Agencies

The over 5,000 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 60 countries throughout the world must know or be trained in the language of the country where they are assigned.

The VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program responds to needs identified by communities in the United States. Knowledge of Spanish, French or Indian languages is needed for projects involving those ethnic groups

  • Article by Krishauna Hines MA.Ed
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