A Pew Research survey shows that in the US only 20% of graduates study foreign languages, while in Europe the number is close to 92%.
What’s the reason?
Marty Abbott, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, points out that language indifference has developed historically. An American grew up, started a family and lived with the slightest risk of encountering a language that was foreign to them. However, business processes and technological development have changed everything.
Most Americans don’t understand why they should learn foreign languages. According to Pew 2016, just 36% of US residents believe that a second language is necessary for success at work. According to ACTFL, most local businesses need multilingual employees but cannot find them.
The result is a real business problem. As most deals are not done in formal negotiations with an interpreter present, but in informal meetings.
The main reason for the lack of interest in foreign languages is geographical, political and cultural isolation. Europeans are neighbours of foreign-speaking states and therefore have to speak to their neighbours more often.
Most European states include one foreign language in the compulsory school curriculum, less often two (Australia, France, Norway). Pew Research shows that the average age at which children begin to learn languages is 9 years. There are no specific standards on this issue in the US.
According to Abbott, Americans often think they are not inclined to learn foreign languages. However, this problem can easily be solved by introducing second and third languages in the compulsory education programme.
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