“For the United States to get to where it needs to be will require a national commitment to strengthening America’s foreign language proficiency,” Director Panetta said. “A significant cultural change needs to occur. And that requires a transformation in attitude from everyone involved: individuals, government, schools and universities, and the private sector.”
He urged schools and universities to reach beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic to “the fourth R”: the reality of the world we live in. Language skills are vital to success in an interconnected world, he said, and they are fundamental to US competitiveness and security.
“Language is the window through which we come to know other peoples and cultures,” Director Panetta said. “Mastery of a second language allows you to capture the nuances that are essential to true understanding…This is not about learning something that is helpful or simply nice to have. It is crucial to CIA’s mission.”