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Language scientists engage in advocacy and outreach

Chris Heffner with children at AAAS Family Science Days.


In the current political climate, UMD language scientists are more motivated than ever to reach out to non-scientists and advocate to decision makers on issues related to language science. We’re off to a running start with three events in January and February.

Language Science Day of Action

Lara Ehrenhofer presenting at the Language Science Day of Action.To round off Winter Storm and mark the transition of power in Washington, the Language Science Center hosted the first Language Science Day of Action on January 20, Inauguration Day. The event focused on how academics can step outside their bubble and have an impact on public opinion and policy decisions.

In the morning session, groups worked on creating compelling web content for non-specialists that would be compulsively shareable as well as educational, illustrating aspects of language structure and attitudes to language. Projects included a quiz (“Which language is your soulmate?”), a listicle (“10 things that linguists love (or hate!) about [the movie] Arrival”), a blog post (“What every parent should know about raising children multilingual”), and an entertaining illustration of recursion (“What’s an anti anti missile missile missile?”).

In the afternoon, groups worked on crafting talking points to present to decision makers in Congress, the Maryland state legislature, and local school boards. Topics included federal funding for fundamental science, foreign language and bilingual education in public schools, language and dialect diversity in schools, and state-mandated insurance coverage for language-related disorders and health problems.

A plenary discussion panel on Linguistic Diversity in Education attracted an audience of over 70 people. Panelists Jan Edwards (HESP), Brenda Jones-Harden (HDQM), and Jennifer Turner (TLPL) from UMCP, as well as Christine Mallinson from the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program at UMBC, discussed the negative impacts of poverty on educational opportunities and achievement, especially language outcomes.

This event, designed and organized by Lara Ehrenhofer (LING) and LSC staff, was the first of its kind for us - but certainly won't be the last!

Language Advocacy Day

view of capitol buildingOn February 16-17, a group of ten students and three faculty will be heading down to D.C. to represent UMD language science at Language Advocacy Day, an annual event organized by the Joint National Committee on Language. They will be meeting with representatives from congress and various Executive Branch agencies to discuss how language science relates to the national interest.

AAAS Annual Meeting and Family Science Days

On February 16-20, a group of 7 students from LING and HESP will be traveling to Boston to help run the Language Science for Everyone booth at Family Science Days. The event, organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), draws a crowd of thousands. The students will be using a variety of engaging, hands-on activities to demonstrate basic concepts in language and cognitive science.

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