There has been a steady decline in language learning in schools. According to the Pew Research Center, only one in five K-12 students in the United States now learns another language, and just 10 states and the District of Columbia make world language learning a requirement for graduating from high school.
New Jersey has the most students studying a world language (51 percent), followed by the District of Columbia (47 percent) and Wisconsin (36 percent). However, the vast majority of states have fewer than 25 percent of students learning another language — and just 9 percent of students in Arizona, Arkansas, and New Mexico. Compare that to Europe, where 92 percent of students learn a foreign language, Pew observes.
The decline in language learning carries over into college: According to the Modern Language Association, university and college enrollment in language courses dropped by nearly 10 percent from 2013 to 2016. During that same period, higher education institutions cut 651 foreign language programs nationwide.
This decline could have devastating effects on students’ ability to empathize with the challenges faced by global communities. The lack of accessibility to world language courses can also mar students’ future career prospects.
Benefits of learning another language
When students study a second language, they’re not only learning how to speak and write; they’re also exploring the many facets of a different culture. Students must immerse themselves in the values of a certain region to learn about the language, customs and traditions, foods, and pastimes. That is the curriculum of a world language course.