How Many Elementary Schools in the US Teach a Foreign Language?

Griffin and other educators are demonstrating how to reverse the decline of the US. They are making language interesting and relevant to students, while teaching them the fundamental skills of the 21st century: collaboration, communication, presentation and, yes, the command of a second (or third) language, which will mean that one day they will have to hire employees and give them a raise. In Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, more than 30 percent of K-12 students were enrolled in foreign languages. In Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon, it was less than 13 percent.

This lack of support at the K-12 level has led to a decrease in college enrollment and a decrease in levels of competence among US adults. However, employers are increasingly looking for workers who can speak another language. The federal government also designates some languages as representing “critical needs” for national security. These currently include Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Korean and Japanese.

While English remains the lingua franca of global trade and diplomacy, there is a growing consensus among business and political leaders, teachers, scientists and community members that proficiency in English is not sufficient to meet the country's needs in an increasingly shrinking world.

Making Language Learning Interesting

Educators are making language learning interesting and relevant to students. Their students rely on “authentic sources” instead of textbooks. During evaluations they may need to have a real conversation that interprets and incorporates those sources.

It's not like when Griffin started teaching 16 years ago before using the Internet at home and packing his vacation bags full of German magazines. Students are also staying with languages for longer instead of the typical two or three years.

Barriers to Entry

Although many of the students in North County don't go to four-year universities, many do go to two-year universities which don't require studying the language to be admitted; they like what they're learning. She and her colleagues teach all students “as if they were going to be competent one day” and we tell them “You just don't know how useful this can be for you”.

This will eliminate barriers to entry for students studying foreign languages at level A and will offer more equitable conditions of competition. Students don't have to study a foreign language to graduate from high school and the state still doesn't offer the bilingual illiteracy stamp.

Lead with Languages

To address these issues, the American Council for Foreign Language Teaching has launched Lead with Languages; a public awareness campaign that aims to make language learning a national priority. It is important that in the future different levels of entry are offered at level A for foreign languages; a trend that has been gaining popularity at the university level in the United Kingdom over the past decade.

Surprising Lack of Knowledge

The survey team also found a surprising “lack of knowledge” about teaching and learning foreign languages. The State describes Ballentine Elementary School in South Carolina which has elementary classes that are taught entirely in Spanish once a week. The Excellence in Mandarin Program has helped increase Chinese enrollment in the United Kingdom although it would be fantastic if the initiative were extended to more public schools. By far the most popular bilingual immersion schools in the US are Spanish-language (80%) although it is also significant to observe the increase in Chinese enrollment in immersion schools in the United States (8.6%).

Foreign Language Enrollment

The American Council for International Education survey which collected state-by-state data on enrollment in foreign language courses estimates that 10.6 million K-12 students in the United States study a world language or American sign language. Reports from the American Academy of Arts (& Sciences) and the United States Councils for International Education revealed that public schools and state departments of education struggle to find qualified global language instructors and are not equipped to follow local and national trends in language learning. After English; the next most popular languages studied in EU secondary schools are French (15%), German (11%), Spanish (9%) and Russian (2%). Other schools across the country have hired foreign language teachers to offer regular language classes as part of their curriculum.

Generation Study Abroad

More needs to be done to eliminate barriers to studying a second language in schools in the United Kingdom and to improve communication in terms of accessibility of university courses. The state is also among more than half of states that offer bilingual literacy seal; a special recognition on high school diplomas for graduates who demonstrate fluency in two or more languages. Initiatives such as Generation Study Abroad in the United States aimed to stimulate interest and growth in studying foreign languages among university students.

Wallace Bawden
Wallace Bawden

Subtly charming twitter scholar. Total web aficionado. Incurable food scholar. Passionate coffeeaholic. Avid food lover. General tv fanatic.

Leave Reply

Required fields are marked *