The article expounds upon the world language mandates in Europe, revealing that “most European countries have national-level mandates for formally studying languages in school,” whereas the United States only has state or district world language mandates. Furthermore, the article discloses that students in Europe “typically begin studying their first foreign language as a required school subject between the ages of 6 and 9, studying a second foreign language for at least one year is compulsory in more than 20 European countries.”
There is a higher percentage of students in Europe learning a second language, even learning a third language, with Belgium being the country with the lowest percentage of students learning another language (64%). And yet, “Throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 20% of K-12 students are enrolled in foreign language classes, according to a 2017 report from the nonprofit American Councils for International Education.” The article suggests that Americans’ perspectives on language study may be somewhat skewed due to preconceived notions of what the current job market requires: “In a 2016 Pew Research Center report on the state of American jobs, only 36% of Americans reported that knowing a foreign language was an extremely or very important trait for workers to be successful in today’s economy, ranking it last out of eight skills for workers’ success.”
Overall, the article uncovers that the United States is lagging behind in world language acquisition in comparison to European countries, partially due to unfounded and uninformed notions of today’s job market. The sustainment of dual language education becomes even more important, then, as we discover the economic necessity of acquiring more than one language. Additionally, it cannot be forgotten that multilingualism gives way to a more culturally tolerant world. As members of TWIN-CS, we are privy to the long-term economic, social, and emotional benefits of multilingual acquisition.
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Student Researcher