Best Languages to Learn According to the US Government: They'll Even Fund Your Study
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- Critical Language Scholarship Program
A program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program offers intensive summer language institutes in thirteen critical foreign languages.
Scholarships to Study "Critical Languages"
The US Department of State is giving out scholarships to students to study what, in their opinion, are the best languages to learn. They have chosen 13 languages which are deemed crucial to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.
The list is as follows:
While some are perfectly understandable, others are curious, to say the least. Let's go down the list, shall we?
- Arabic: This is understandable because of terrorism, and there is a shortage of Arabic speakers that the US Government and intelligence agencies can draw upon.
- Azerbaijani: What? The only reason I can think of is the gas pipelines that are now going through Central Asia, trying to bypass both Iran and Russia to friendly states, that recently had dubious "democratic coloured revolutions".
- Bangla: Again, WTF? Bangladesh is a poor country with few ties to the US as far as I am aware. Maybe it is the terrorism angle since it is a Muslim country?
- Chinese: OK. That is expected. It is expected to be the world's largest economy soon, and it holds the most US debt, while also being a major target for US investors, and the major source of US imports (sometimes from companies owned by the same US investors!).
- Hindi: Not surprising. It is a BRIC country (Brazil, Russia, India, China), with over 1 billion people, the world's largest democracy, a nuclear power, relatively peaceful, a lot of call centres and US links (two US Governors currently are Indian-born, even). OK, fine.
- Korean: Not surprising at all. Long ties with the US since the Korean war and South Korea is a booming, solid, high-tech economy. North Korea, on the other hand, is a crazy country where lots of intelligence is needed. The US has a strong military presence there, etc. OK, understandable.
- Indonesian: Hmmmm. It is the largest Muslim country in the world and has a fairly robust economy. But is it so crucial to US interests?
- Japanese: Definitely. Japan is one of the largest economies in the world, and it is significantly tied to China as well as a major investor. In fact, a lot of what we might consider as Chinese companies are really Japanese owned.
- Persian: Iran is seen as a major antagonist against the US, so that is understandable.
- Punjabi: Really? Punjab is not even a country. It is spoken in Northwestern India, and also in Pakistan. I guess the terrorism aspect is the angle?
- Russian: Sure. It is a BRIC country, and the US still has some lingering antagonism toward it ever since the 19th century.
- Turkish: Interesting. It is a large economy, NATO member, moderate Muslim country, a democracy, and once was the centre of the Muslim world. OK, I get it.
- Urdu: Pakistan again? More spies and intelligence agents, I suppose. Al-Qaeda is still big there, I suppose.
What About the Languages That Are NOT Included?
What is most interesting about the list is what is left out. Portuguese is not there. What about Brazil? Isn't the Brazilian economy one of the world's major ones? And how many people know that there are more Portuguese speakers in Latin America than Spanish speakers?
No European languages are included either. I would think German would be strategic, as the economic core of the European Union. Even French, as the diplomatic and cultural centre of Europe. These places also have large, potentially radical Muslim populations. (I await the criticisms...)
Well, in any case, one wonders how bureaucrats come up with these ideas sometimes. I may be an idiot, I suppose. But I really do question their list.