Below are DC Immersion’s comments on the DC Cultural Plan.
We respectfully ask that the funding of linguistic and cultural competence become an integral part of DC’s Cultural Plan.
The District has a lot to gain from linguistic and cultural competence.* Better connected communities, better job opportunities, and more innovation.**
Different languages and cultures already exist in DC – let’s leverage what all District residents have to offer and create a path forward for inclusive cultural innovation! Let’s enable and facilitate a more deep and meaningful sharing of heritage, culture, art, fashion, food, etc among the different communities of the District through funding language learning.
Increasing linguistic and cultural competence across residents of all ages allows District residents to feel empowered not threatened by diversity. In an environment where different factions of the District at times see each other with suspicion, increased understanding of the cultural and linguistic differences and similarities, is a powerful way to strengthen community throughout the District.
The DC Language Immersion Project (DC Immersion) is a non-partisan non profit organization which works to further linguistic and cultural competence in DC. We are the unifying force for bilingual education across all sectors of public education in DC. Our vision is DC as a city that competes successfully in the global marketplace because linguistic and cultural proficiency are the norm, and where families, regardless of where they live, have the choice to raise multilingual children who excel academically across subjects, interact effectively with people from different cultures, and have access to a world of opportunity.
Most of our work focusses on dual language programs in the public schools of the District, because we believe these programs are key to narrowing the achievement gap, lead to broader job opportunities, are needed to meet the skyrocketing demand by parents for these programs, and are a powerful tool to increase racial and socioeconomic diversity in schools.
However, the most important effect of bilingual education happens outside of schools and goes beyond achievement. A correctly implemented dual language program puts two languages and cultures on the same level. There is not one form of government, one way of celebrating family, one concept of beauty, one term to define love. There are multiple options, there are multiple ways of behaving, there are multiple places where life can be imagined. It gives us perspective and makes us into more tolerant and empathetic adults.
Linguistic and cultural competence can be fostered at any age if we invest in the right people, places, communities and ideas, and DC Immersion would be proud to join the DC Cultural Plan working group to help flesh out how DC can lead the way in cultural policy that leverages the skills of all communities to foster inclusive cultural innovation.
** “Research has demonstrated that language learning and bilingualism include cognitive benefits such as improved problem solving and creativity, skills essential for entrepreneurs and innovators.” https://languagepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/FL-Innovation.pdf