College of Languages, Linguistics, & Literature Dean Robert Bley-Vroman, and members of his faculty met with top-ranking officials from the National Security Education Program, including its director Michael Nugent, to discuss the University of Hawaiʻi’s critical role in language learning for global workforce purposes. The college’s expertise in this area is extensive. It has the unique distinction of having two nationally-designated language flagship programs within the Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures–one in Korean and the other, newly established, in Chinese. It also provides leadership for the Hawaiʻi Language Roadmap Initiative, which is an effort to bring together employers and educators to address the growing demand of language skills and cultural expertise in the workforce.
Joining Bley-Vroman and East Asian Languages & Literatures department chair Robert Huey were representatives from the Korean Language Flagship Center: Ho-min Sohn, Dong-Kwan Kong, Sumi Chang, and Lydia Chung. Song Jiang represented the Chinese Language Flagship Program. Chung reported that the Korean Language Flagship Center is experiencing great progress and success in its pre-college language programs at Roosevelt High School and Moanalua High School. Jiang noted that student recruitment for the new Chinese flagship is exceeding expectations.
Dina Yoshimi, who leads UH’s involvement in the Hawaiʻi Language Roadmap Initiative, shared news of efforts to build teams from members of government, the private sector, and community organizations in order to most effectively train language proficient workforces. The team is finding that language needs are prevalent in many obvious and not-so-obvious areas, ranging from the public arena to private enterprise. Yoshimi has also worked with staff from Hawaiʻi Governor Neil Abercrombie’s office and other elected officials who have taken a keen interest in these workforce demand issues.
A particularly impressive part of this important meeting was when members of the National Language Service Corps spoke of their experiences. The corps recruits people with bilingual skills (English and a target language) who can be deployed on a quasi-voluntary basis when their target language skills are needed. For example, a Vietnamese speaker may be able to assist in the repatriation of the remains of U.S. service personnel who died during the Vietnam War. The language flagship and roadmap programs can be natural conduits for corps recruits. In fact, many of the National Language Service Corps’ local members are College of Languages, Linguistics, & Literature graduates.