American Students, Second Languages

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Unit 13 Essay|
American Students, Second Languages

Janet Petty

American Students should be required to learn a second language to help them compete in today’s market place. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the world population exceeded 7 billion on March 12, 2012. (Wikipedia) According to the United States Department of Education, as of 2006 less than 1% of American high school students combined studied Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or Urdu although 1.7 billion people speak these languages. (20 Embarrassing Facts about Foreign Language Learning in the U.S., 2012) It is estimated that more than half the world speaks at least two languages or more and as of fall 2009, over 60,000 U.S. college students were studying Chinese, although the number still lagged behind that of Spanish, French or German learners, the survey said. (More foreigners gung-ho about learning Chinese, 2011)

Students in Finland dedicate about 16 hours each week to foreign languages, and still manage to come in second in reading, second in math, and first in science. (Abrams, 2011) American students’ rank 14th in reading, 25th in math, and 17th in science out a list of 34 ranked countries which makes a strong argument for the benefit of learning a foreign language. (In ranking, U.S. students trail global leaders, 2010) Of the 25 leading industrialized countries in the world, 20 began teaching students foreign languages in elementary school. In the U S, the average starting age for learning a second language is 14. (20 Embarrassing Facts about Foreign Language Learning in the U.S., 2012) In Europe, 44% of citizens speak multiple languages compared to 9% in the United States.

The United States has muddled along in the middle for the past decade regarding education but is deeply lagging in the number of students that speak another language. Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind...
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