Why Biden and Modi should establish a new Hindi Language Fund

U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcome Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to the White House in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

A week ago President Joseph Biden hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (June 22, 2023) for an official visit to the United States, only the third world leader invited by President Biden.

The visit marked Prime Minister Modi’s sixth visit to the United States since 2014.

Like past visits, the meeting offers the chance to deepen the relationships between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy in such areas as defense, clean energy, and space.

However, both countries should prioritize the teaching of Hindi, the world’s third most spoken language, in American schools as a way to build long-term economic ties. That’s why President Biden and Prime Minister should establish a joint New Hindi Language Fund through the Asia Society to teach Hindi in American middle schools and high schools.

There’s a strong economic argument for investing in teaching Hindi in America schools.

The Standard & Poor Global forecasts India to surpass Japan and Germany as the third’s largest economy in the world. Morgan Stanley projects India’s gross domestic product will double from current levels by 2031. In 2021, bilateral trade between both countries reached a record $157 billion in goods and services; India moved up three places to become our country’s ninth largest trade partner.

As India continues to rapidly grow as a global economic power, Americans should place a priority on teaching Hindi language. Americans who speak Hindi can help our companies export more goods and services in manufacturing, agriculture, and information technology. A new generation of American Hindi speakers can open markets to a country that some financial observers believe represent a once-in-a-generation economic shift.

As background, our American educational system doesn’t put a premium on foreign language teaching. Most students begin foreign language study in high school when it may be too late for a child to speak a language as well as a native speaker. But, according to the Commission on Language Learning, only 58 percent of middle schools and 25 percent of elementary schools offer a foreign language.

In comparison, most developed countries mandate foreign language instruction between the ages of five and ten. In China and Korea, English language instruction for a student starts at the age eight.

Today, our American foreign language offerings do not reflect the rapidly growing and evolving global economy. For example, Spanish foreign language program accounts for 46 percent of all high school language programs – that helps Americans open markets in the emerging Latin American market. In comparison, Hindi foreign language program account for .11 percent of all high school program, an illustration of the mismatch between our foreign language programs with our global economy. Put another way, we have just 19 Hindi foreign language programs in all our high schools across the country to prepare the next generation of Americans for an Indian economy that will surpass $7.5 trillion by 2031.

A joint New Hindi Language Fund to teach Hindi in American schools would accelerate the need to address this mismatch where the federal government has failed to provide foreign language support in these growing foreign markets. The best model comes from a country that takes extraordinary pride in its language – France.

Just last December, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new initiative to support access to French language instruction across the United States, including the French Dual Language Fund, a program that expands and supports K-12 programs in Title I schools, and the New Pathways to Teaching French Programs, a program that targets the shortage of foreign language instructors in American Schools. The latter program creatively leverages the skills of French-speaking Americans of all backgrounds-by offering scholarships to train these new French teachers.

The New Hindi Language Fund can-follow this model. The fund can provide financial support to expand Hindi language in K-12-programs across the country. Similarly, the fund could offer financial assistance into Americans speaking Hindi, including Indian-Americans, to train Hindi teachers. In addition, this new fund could support cultural initiatives that would complement Hindi language instruction, including hosting Indian artists who would visit American schools where Hindi is taught.

The United States-India relationship is among the most important in modern international politics and efforts to foster greater understanding about the Hindi language and India in the American educational system is a crucial element to building upon this relationship. We hope President Biden and Prime Minister Modi will use this meeting establish this New Hindi Language Fund that will help the next generation of American students as India’s economic influence grows in the 21st century.

North Carolina State Senator Jai Chaudhuri. PHOTO: Twitter @jay_chaudhuri

Jay Chaudhuri is the only Indian American member of the North Carolina State Senate.



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