American students abandoning foreign languages – report

Lazy eyes listen


According to a new survey, college students in the United States are increasingly avoiding foreign language lessons, with enrollment in such classes falling to the lowest levels in more than two decades.

Enrollment in language classes other than English at US colleges and universities fell by about 17% between 2016 and 2021, led by losses in German and French courses, according to a research released on Wednesday by the Modern Language Association (MLA). The reduction was the greatest on record, and enrollment in such courses fell to roughly 1.18 million, the lowest level since 1998.

Foreign language study on American schools has declined roughly 30% since enrollment peaked at nearly 1.7 million in 2009, as institutions focus increasingly on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programmes.

“We can’t afford to undervalue language study,” MLA executive director Paula Krebs said. “The world is increasingly interconnected, and the need [for] the knowledge of languages other than English is even more important.”

Between 2016 and 2021, the number of college-level foreign language programmes in the United States fell by 8.2%, eliminating over 1,000 courses. German, French, and Chinese programmes were particularly heavily damaged. Over a five-year period, enrollment in German lessons plummeted by approximately 34%, while enrollment in French programmes declined by 23%. Spanish classes had 18% fewer students, but it remained the most popular foreign language in terms of enrollment volume.

Korean, American Sign Language (ASL), and Biblical Hebrew were exceptions to the declining trend. The 38% increase in enrollment for Korean courses was attributed to MLA.

Indeed, Korean has surpassed Russian as one of the top ten foreign languages studied at American schools and universities. Russian course enrollment declined by approximately 14% to 11,433. The growing apathy appears to be mutual, as sales of English language textbooks in Russia fell 33% in the first six months of this year.