Critical Need Languages

The United States regards a language as “critical-need” if the demand for professionals fluent in the language cannot currently be met.

“Critical” is also referenced in accord with areas of the world where the United States is significantly involved economically or defensively and has high demand for individuals who can communicate effectively with the nationals.

Speaking another’s language:

  • Promotes understanding
  • Conveys respect
  • Strengthens ability to engage foreign peoples and governments
  • Provides others with an opportunity to learn more about America and its people

"With our increasing global economy and national security needs, it's crucial that we have as many citizens as possible who can communicate in languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Korean and Hindi."

— Former U.S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings

National Security Language Initiative (NSLI)

In January 2006, President Bush announced an inter-agency effort coordinated by the White House to dramatically increase the number of U.S. residents learning, speaking, and teaching critical-need foreign languages. This initiative represents recognition that foreign language skills are essential for engaging foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical world regions. These skills are also fundamental to the economic competitiveness and security interests of the nation.

NSLI programs target Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian languages and the Indic, Persian, and Turkic language families, The NSLI is committed to making a long-term investment in the nation’s critical foreign language learning capabilities and competencies by accomplishing the following goals:  

  • Increase the number of U.S. residents studying critical-need languages and starting them at an earlier age.
  • Increase the number of advanced-level speakers of foreign languages, with an emphasis on mastery of critical-need languages.
  • Increase the number of teachers of critical-need languages and providing resources for them.

The following less commonly taught languages are defined as “critical” by the US Department of Defense.

Cincinnati Public Schools currently offers instruction in four of the identified critical languages.*

  • Arabic*
  • Chinese*
  • Korean
  • Japanese*
  • Russian*
  • Languages in the Indic Families
  • Languages in the Iranian Families
  • Languages in the Turkic Families

Source(s):  Federal Register, March 15, 2010