Center for Applied Linguistics

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The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is a private, nonprofit organization that describes its mission as “working to improve communication through better understanding of language and culture” ( CAL is headquartered in Washington, DC and provides a wide range of services, information, and resources related to language and culture. Its current President and Chief Executive Officer is Terrence G. Wiley.

The organization carries out its mission by working in the fields of bilingual education, English as a second language, literacy, foreign language education; dialect studies; language policy; refugee orientation; and the education of linguistically and culturally diverse adults and children (Peterson, 2004). Staff members conduct research, design and develop language assessments and instructional materials, provide technical assistance and professional development, and disseminate information and resources related to language and culture.


At the close of the 1950s, issues of language diversity, interest in language policy, and the emergence of English as a world language created a demand for information about world languages and for expertise in linguistics and language training. In the United States, reactions to the launch of Sputnik and the continuation of the Cold War led to concern about the ability of U.S. schools to train students in mathematics, the sciences, and foreign languages. CAL was created in this environment of increased interest in language issues by Dr. Charles A. Ferguson, a pioneer in the field of applied linguistics. Through a grant from the Ford Foundation to the Modern Language Association, CAL was established in 1959 to serve as a liaison between the academic world of linguistics, and the practical world of language education and language-related concerns (Spolsky, 1999; Troike, 2008). CAL's original mandate was to improve the teaching of English around the world; encourage the teaching and learning of less commonly taught languages; contribute new knowledge to the field by conducting language research to resolve social and educational problems; and serve as a clearinghouse for information collection, analysis, and dissemination and as a coordinating agency to bring together scholars and practitioners involved in language-related issues.

Current Activities[edit]

Since its inception, CAL has played a leading role in conducting research on language use, language learning, and effective teaching methods, and translating research into practical applications to help language learners succeed (Christian, 2008; Berns, 2010). Among the populations that CAL serves are language educators of children and adults who are learning foreign languages and English as a second language; immigrants and refugees in the United States and the agencies that provide services for them; schools, school districts, and other educational institutions in need of curriculum development, professional development, and assessments; and policy makers who need information about language and culture to address the important issues of the day.

CAL’s website provides detailed information about the organization and access to resources on a wide range of topics including

English Language Learners: CAL works with educators and practitioners to help the growing number of students who speak English as a second language in the United States succeed in the classroom and the workplace.

Foreign Language Education: Proficiency in languages other than English is critical in the global society. CAL provides resources to inform language education at all levels of instruction, from early language programs in elementary schools through graduate level programs for individuals seeking high levels of proficiency in a range of languages.

Sheltered Instruction: CAL supports educators who are implementing sheltered instruction, an approach to teaching that promotes language development and content-area learning for students who are not yet proficient in the language of instruction.

Two-Way Immersion: Two-way immersion is an educational approach that integrates native English speakers and speakers of another language in classrooms where they all receive instruction in both languages. The goal of these programs is bilingualism and biliteracy for all students along with high levels of academic achievement.

Bilingual Education: Proficiency in more than one language is a valuable skill to be cultivated and nurtured in schools and communities. CAL provides information and resources to support the development of bilingualism and the academic success of English language learners through programs that utilize their native language in instruction.

Heritage Languages: The United States has a rich diversity of languages other than English that are spoken in communities around the country. CAL works with the National Foreign Language Center and other colleagues in the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages to promote the conservation and development of these heritage language resources in the country.

Literacy Education: Literacy is a central component in language learning and a critical skill for success in academic, career, and life pursuits. CAL provides resources for literacy education for learners of every age, particularly related to biliteracy and English language literacy.

Refugee Integration: Since the major influx of refugees from Southeast Asia in the 1970s, CAL has conducted programs in refugee integration and orientation, helping newcomers understand fundamental aspects of life in the United States while helping service providers and interested parties understand the rich cultures and likely resettlement needs of the new members of their communities.

Assessment and Testing: CAL researches and develops assessments of language proficiency in English as a second language and foreign languages at all educational and proficiency levels. Specialists also examine the language and culture issues related to assessment of subject matter knowledge through a second language for English learners and design innovative approaches to addressing these concerns.

Dialects: Virtually every language in the world has dialects—varieties of the language that are particular to a group of speakers--and there are often social, educational, and economic consequences associated with dialect diversity. To help inform the discussion and improve responses to dialects, particularly in education, CAL has created and collected a variety of resources related to dialects and language diversity.

Research: CAL is involved in a variety of research projects that inform its mission, such as math, science, and language education for English learners, biliteracy development for Spanish-speaking students, effective approaches for developing high levels of language proficiency in English and other languages, and innovative methods for assessing math and science knowledge in English learners. Much of CAL’s grant and project work includes a substantial research component.

Services: CAL offers solutions to the challenges faced by practitioners working with language learners at all levels of instruction through professional development, technical assistance, program evaluation, and other services.

Resources: CAL provides research-based language and cultural education resources and testing tools, including publications, teacher tools, free downloadable digests, and databases and directories of information about language programs.

On its website, CAL provides information about current projects. The organization also distributes a monthly email newsletter, CALNews, and an annual report.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


Berns, M. & Matsuda, P. K. 2010. Applied linguistics. In: Berns, M. (ed.), Concise encyclopedia of applied linguistics. Amsterdam: Elsevier. P. 9.

Christian, D. 2008. Center for Applied Linguistics, recent focus. In: Gonzalez, J. (ed.), Encyclopedia of bilingual education. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications. Pp. 120-123.

Peterson, E. 2004. Center for Applied Linguistics. ESL magazine. Chicago: Modern English Publishing. Pp. 18-22.

Spolsky, B. 1999. Research centers. In: Spolsky, B. (ed.), Concise encyclopedia of educational linguistics. Amsterdam: Elsevier. P. 734-739.

Troike, R. 2008. Center for Applied Linguistics, initial focus. In: Gonzalez, J. (ed.), Encyclopedia of bilingual education. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications. Pp. 117-120.