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HomeFeaturesBuilding on 40 Years of Language Advocacy

Building on 40 Years of Language Advocacy

Amanda Seewald and Alissa Rutkowski share what you can do to be a part of the future of language advocacy

On Feb. 3–5, 2021, advocates from all over the U.S. will gather virtually to celebrate 40 years of the Joint National Committee on Languages and National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS) during Virtual Language Advocacy Days 2021.

As the leading language advocacy organization, JNCL-NCLIS is at the forefront of language policy, engaging in public advocacy and directing lobbying on behalf of its coalition members. The organization’s success is predicated on providing training to empower individuals to use their voices and raise awareness of the importance of languages in an increasingly globalized world.

JNCL-NCLIS was established in response to the final report of President Carter’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies, “Strength through Wisdom: A Critique of U.S. Capability.” The findings of the report called attention to the necessity for language professionals to work together under a united voice with the purpose of continuing the movement to improve and enhance the learning and teaching of world language and international studies. In 1981, the articles of association were signed, bringing the following 40 years of language advocacy to fruition.

Today, JNCL-NCLIS has grown to serve over 130 member organizations at the national, state, and regional levels, representing an all-inclusive network encompassing more than 300,000 language educators and professionals. While the landscape of language policy has shifted over the years through various administration changes and history-shaping events, JNCL-NCLIS remains an agile and proactive constant, committed to bringing language and international education into broader policy conversations. Most recently, JNCL-NCLIS represented the language and international education community during a key stakeholder meeting with members of the Biden–Harris Department of Education transition team and representatives from several other education organizations, articulating the need for a departmental shift to an asset-based approach to multilingualism.

JNCL-NCLIS works year-round to ensure language policy is on the agendas of legislative decision makers, and the organization’s annual Language Advocacy Day is an opportunity for coalition members and advocates across the nation to experience firsthand the power of advocacy as they participate in policy discussions with leaders in the field and attend meetings with their congressional representatives.The event serves as a launch pad, a space of collaboration, coordination, and preparation for language advocacy in the year ahead.

Advocates are invited to take part in the next chapter of language advocacy by joining JNCL-NCLIS in celebration of 40 years of advocacy and renewed commitment to the future of language advocacy. The three-day advocacy event will take place Feb. 3–5, 2021, and will consist of both live, interactive sessions and panels and prerecorded events.

During the first-ever Virtual Languages Advocacy Days event, attendees will join hundreds of language educators, professionals, and students already registered for the organization’s largest event to date for the unique opportunity to learn about the federal programs that impact the language community, understand the role of advocacy in advancing collective policy priorities, and receive specialized training for successful virtual advocacy.

This year’s event will focus on preparing advocates to create virtual pathways to legislative impact and will explore themes of empathy and connection through language. Each day will feature engaging keynotes and remarks from special guest speakers with connections to the past, present, and future of language advocacy.

The constituent voice is an essential component to successfully advancing the policy priorities of our professional community. JNCL-NCLIS sets advocates up for success by scheduling virtual meetings with their members of Congress, preparing briefing materials for discussion, and providing coaching and insight to help amplify their stories. Each voice will make a difference at Virtual Language Advocacy Days 2021. If each person doesn’t tell their story, who will?

To register for Virtual Language Advocacy Days 2021, visit

Amanda Seewald is president and Alissa Rutkowski is manager of communications, policy, and operations, JNCL-NCLIS.

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