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Saturday, September 15, 2012




Americans’ Future Has to Be Multilingual


By Linda Moore

We Americans must confront a stark disadvantage we face when it comes to the global economy. Some eight in 10 Americans speak only English, and the number of schools teaching a foreign language is in decline, according to a new study by the Council on Foreign Relations. But the opposite is true among our economic competitors.
While some 200 million Chinese students are learning English, only 24,000 Americans are studying Chinese, U.S. Department of Education statistics say. Foreign language degrees account for only 1 percent of all U.S. undergraduate degrees. And fewer than 2 percent of U.S. undergraduates study abroad in a given year, the Education Department says.
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Photo: Gra├ža Victoria / BigStock
Our nation is largely monolingual but is entering an increasingly multilingual world. More than half of European Union citizens speak a language other than their mother tongue, and more than a quarter speak at least three languages. This is because additional languages are studied in European primary and secondary schools, and are taken up by European college students in much larger numbers than in the United States.
The Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored task force report, headed by former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, concluded: "Education failure puts the United States' future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk." It warned that the country "will not be able to keep pace — much less lead — globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long."

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