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English for Heritage Language Speakers

The English for Heritage Language Speakers (EHLS) program is an intensive program of study for adults who possess a high level of proficiency in a critical language and want to achieve professional proficiency in English. Conducted by CAL in partnership with the Georgetown University Center for Language Education and Development, EHLS gives participants the English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills they need to succeed in professional positions in the federal government.

Visit the EHLS website.



About CAL

Meet the CAL Team

Deborah Kennedy's pictureDeborah Kennedy

Associate Vice President, Adult English Language Education


Deborah Kennedy leads CALís adult language acquisition and adult learning programs and activities.

She directs CALís English for Heritage Language Speakers (EHLS) program, which enables native speakers of critical languages to develop professional proficiency in English in order to obtain employment with the federal government. As that programís manager from its inception in 2006 until 2008, and as its director since 2009, she has played a leading role in the programís design and development, has overseen the evolution of its instructional program and the implementation of the capstone analytical research project, and has held primary responsibility for its language proficiency outcomes.

Ms. Kennedyís other CAL projects include working with the Federal Trade Commission to develop a financial literacy website for English learners and adults with low levels of literacy; co-managing a full evaluation of the Saudi Aramco English Language Teaching Program; and developing of language assessments and related materials. A specialist in English for specific purposes, Ms. Kennedy has extensive experience in designing, developing, conducting, and evaluating English language programs for adults in the workplace. She served as CALís director of development from 2009 to 2012.

Prior to coming to CAL, Ms. Kennedy was the principal at Key Words, a consulting firm that provides writing, editing, and project planning services for government and nonprofit sector organizations involved in education and social services. In that position, she served as a subject matter expert for the development of the Work Readiness Oral Language Test, a computer-mediated test of English listening and speaking skills; and served as a subject matter expert for the development and validation of the National Work Readiness Credential, working with a team of subject matter experts to develop and refine math, reading, and on-the-job situational judgment test items and reviewing items for English language level and cultural appropriateness. In her role at Key Words, Ms. Kennedy also developed The Essentials of Language Teaching, a resource website for teachers of all languages, for the National Capital Language Resource Center, and worked with NCLRC staff on an adaptation of the site for teachers of Arabic K-16.

Prior to founding Key Words, Ms. Kennedy was director of operations at Language at Work, a corporate training firm based in Washington, DC. In that position she developed and managed workplace communication programs for native and non-native speakers of English, including presentation skills, interpersonal communication, active listening, and business writing. She also coordinated two major workplace literacy programs, one for the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, U.S. Congress, and the other for the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms, U.S. Congress. These programs provided literacy and work readiness instruction for native and non-native speakers of English from basic literacy through GED preparation.

Ms. Kennedy holds an MA in teaching English as a second language from American University and a masterís degree in Near Eastern Language and Civilization from Harvard University. She is the coauthor (with Joan Friedenberg, Anne Lomperis, William Martin, and Kay Westerfield) of Effective Practices in Workplace Language Training: Guidelines for Providers of Workplace English Language Training Services. She is a member of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL), the Linguistics Society of America, and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She also serves on Committee F43, Language Services and Products, of ASTM International. She served as a board member and CAL representative to the Coalition of Distinguished Language Centers from 2007 until that organization dissolved in 2010.

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