Language education is dwindling at every level in the US, from school to university, and a diminishing share of the country’s residents speak languages other than English, according to a new report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The State of Languages in the U.S.: A Statistical Portrait is a precursor to another forthcoming report from the academy about how the US might build language capacity to meet the needs of the increasingly global economy and otherwise “shrinking world”.
“While English continues to be the lingua franca for world trade and diplomacy, there is an emerging consensus among leaders in business and politics, teachers, scientists, and community members that proficiency in English is not sufficient to meet the nation’s needs,” the new report says.
John Tessitore, senior programme adviser at the academy, helped to compile the statistical portrait based on existing data on second-language learners and speakers in the US for the academy’s Commission on Language Learning.
He said the commission believes that foreign language should be of a higher priority throughout the American education system – not at odds or competing with other priorities, such as science and maths, but alongside them.
“This is about increasing access and making language learning available,” he said. “Every student should have access and should be able to learn a language over the course of their educational life, whether they go to college or not.”
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