The Student News Site of Hudson High School

The Explorer

The Student News Site of Hudson High School

The Explorer

The Student News Site of Hudson High School

The Explorer

US Language Education is unsatisfactory

The state of American language skills puts us behind other nations
Communication+is+essential+for+personal+and+cultural+growth.+Improving+langauge+education+in+the+United+States+will+enable+Americans+to+better+understand+global+conversation.+Used+with+permission%2FUntitled+by+David+Topolewski.
Communication is essential for personal and cultural growth. Improving langauge education in the United States will enable Americans to better understand global conversation. Used with permission/Untitled by David Topolewski.

The ability to speak more than one language is one that is becoming increasingly valuable in our globalized world, as different nations and cultures connect online and in fields such as business, science and politics. The United States is home to 335 spoken languages.

Despite this impressive number, it was ranked last on a list of 30 European and North American nations in terms of world language education in a report by Preply, a language learning organization. Other English-speaking countries ranked low as well, with Canada coming in at 29 and the United Kingdom at 25.

According to a survey conducted by Eurostat in 2019, 68% of Europeans aged 25-64 reported that they can speak at least one foreign language in addition to their mother tongue.

In comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that about 20% of the U.S. population speak a language other than English at home. The fact that multilingualism is so common in the rest of the world makes its rarity in the United States all the more disappointing, and this disparity puts the US at a disadvantage in a multitude of ways.

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The ability to speak more than one language has been shown to increase hireability. Many US employers express an increasing demand for language skills in their employees.

According to IndustryWeek, “96% of the world’s consumers and two-thirds of its purchasing power reside outside U.S. borders.” Having employees that can effectively communicate with these demographics allows companies to tap into the massive global market for more international business opportunities. When the American applicant pool cannot meet these requirements, however, positions are unable to be filled.

Howie Berman, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), said that “Our report finds that major sectors of the U.S. economy are experiencing increased demand for foreign language-skilled employees but there is a shortage of employees with these skills.”

English-speakers’ passiveness in terms of learning other languages stems from English’s status as a lingua franca in international communication. Despite the language’s widespread use, however, around 75% of the global population does not speak English.

Americans’ general lack of language skills creates a disconnect between them and those who don’t speak English, and for the US to keep up with other nations, improving these skills is essential.

Currently, many students in the United States are required to take foreign language courses to graduate. But even with this policy in place, many students remain monolingual. The reasons for this range from inadequate instruction to simply not caring enough about the subject to retain information. A large factor in this is that many schools don’t start language education while children’s language skills are still developing, which makes it harder for them to learn new languages and prevents language education from being cemented in their minds as a necessary subject.

If foreign language courses were to be implemented earlier in the education of American children, they would benefit greatly. Students who speak more than one language generally have higher test scores, improved cognitive abilities and better memory. They also tend to have a better understanding of other cultures, which facilitates international communication and builds empathy.
An article by professors from the University of California, Riverside and Penn State University states that “bilingualism confers advantages in…the brain’s functions that allow humans to carry out complex tasks such as solving problems, planning a sequence of activities, inhibiting information that has already been perceived, directing attention to achieve a goal, or monitoring performance.”

An early introduction to other languages would provide all of these benefits, and give Americans the necessary skills to compete on an international level.

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About the Contributor
Greta Knipe
Greta Knipe, Editor-in-Chief
Greta Knipe is a senior at Hudson High School in her third year writing for The Explorer. She has always enjoyed writing and decided to join journalism her sophomore year to express her opinions and provide the HHS student body with reliable, in-depth news. Greta enjoys writing about social issues, local news and reviewing movies. She is also involved in the Writing Club and French Honors Society, among other student organizations. Outside of school, she likes reading, hiking, spending time with friends and family and volunteering. After high school, she plans to pursue a major similar to Psychology or Forensics at an out-of-state university.
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