“Life is all about creating opportunities for yourself and for others. It’s why we live: to make this world a better place. If people don’t have opportunities to grow, to become more than they think they can, then we’re not fulfilling the blessing that we have to be alive as a human being at this time and in this place.”
My guest for Episode 9 is David Bong, who has gone in his life from not really knowing “what language was for,” to a leader changing the world through language study, assessment, promotion, reward, and skill certification. A world traveler, fluent in Japanese, jazzed by and respectful of each language and its speakers, David is an exciting person to talk with and to watch in action in the world.
David is a kind and compassionate person. You can see it in the quote above. You will hear it in his voice and in his careful and respectful word choice. You will also appreciate that David has seen and thought a lot about how language, because it is indeed our identity to ourselves and in the world, can be a source of division and conflict. His thoughtful discussion of how we can best approach working with language as a source of collaboration and celebration is a powerful gift to all of us.
Enjoy the podcast.
David’s short bio:
David co-founded Avant Assessment in 2001 with his wife, Sheila, and Dr. Carl Falsgraf, of the University of Oregon. David has led the growth of the world’s first online language proficiency test, Avant STAMP (Standards Based Measurement of Proficiency) and WorldSpeak into a suite of online assessments in 37 languages used to improve language program outcomes, and award competency-based credit and the Seal of Biliteracy. Avant also developed and delivered the first online assessment of English proficiency for K-12 English Language Learners under a contract from the State of Oregon. Most recently David saw the need for a universal credential that would recognize anyone for their language proficiency skills, regardless of how they learned their language. He assembled a group of leaders in language education to be the initial independent Board of Advisors. The Board decided what tests could be used to demonstrate language proficiency and facilitated the development of the Global Seal of Biliteracy.
Earlier David was the founder of EARL, an iPhone app that enabled people who had lost their sight to read thousands of digital newspapers, magazines, books and websites through speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies, co-founder of Step.com, a web-based information service for investors in Japan on all publicly listed US companies, and Managing Director in Tokyo for Kroll Associates, the world’s leading investigation and security consulting firm. His experience working in Japan as an investigator showed him how American firms were too often victims of fraud or extortion when their expat managers did not understand Japanese language or culture. This experience inspired him to co-found Avant with the mission of improving language learning.
David speaks Japanese and is happy to be living in Eugene, Oregon with Sheila and their two sons. He is on the Board of the Joint National Committee for Languages and serves as a member of the US delegation to the International Standards Organization committee establishing international standards for education and learning services. He received a BA in the College of Social Studies and Japanese History from Wesleyan University, and long ago was a New England collegiate wrestling champion.
Resources provided and recommended by David:
David refers to a global language event, GlobalC.R.E.D., December 2-3, 2020. Check out the event, which being held at no charge to participants, who can be students and speakers of languages of all ages, educators, administrators, those in business, and those involved in organizations where language plays a part.
To see how iterative language assessment works, why and how external assessment is used to strengthen the impact of individuals and programs, and to explore the number and range of languages for which these assessments are provided, see Avant Assessment.
Celebrating language skill, credentialing it to open doors to opportunities in education and employment, supporting speakers in retaining their heritage language, and providing pathways to protect less commonly taught languages are just some of the goals to which the Global Seal is dedicated. Check out the Seal and see how you can personally benefit, too.
Both formal and informal advocacy are critical for families, communities, and the nation to understand the central role languages and language learning play in the development of well-educated and integrated citizens of the 21st century. For much more information and to see how you can take part in advocacy actions small and large, please visit the national advocacy organization JNCL-NCLIS.
To learn more about previous guests on It’s About Language or access other episodes of the podcast, visit It’s About Language or click on the Podcast tab above.