The Modern Language Association (MLA) has recently released a survey that was meant to measure the rate of enrollees for foreign languages at American universities and colleges. Survey results show that although there has been an increase in the enrollment of foreign languages since 2005, a decline from the years 2009 to 2013 has been noted.
Results of the Survey
The results show a big dip in the enrollments of major European languages. Spanish still remains to be the most-studied language. However even the enrollment for Spanish took a great dip, going down by over 8%. Enrollment for French and German, part of the top three most-studied languages, have also decreased by over 8% and over 9%, respectively. On a similar note, interest for older languages, such as Ancient Greek, Latin and biblical Hebrew, has dropped dramatically.
Despite the notable decrease in enrollment for most of the language classes, some language classes such as Korean and Chinese have seen an increase. With the current trend of students seeking further studies or employment in Asian countries, the growing interest in Asian languages does not come as a surprise.
The results also show a direct correlation with the current political relations and financial situations of various countries. Being on a financial uptrend, Korea and China have gotten a significant number of foreign workers from the European countries, thus the need to learn their language.
An increase in the enrollment for American Sign Language has also been noted.
Reason for the Decline
According to Yale’s Director of Undergraduate Studies for French, Christopher Semk, the noted decrease in enrollment could be attributed to globalization. With modes of communication getting more sophisticated, dealing with people in a global scale has become easier nowadays. Because of this, there has been an increase in the use of the English language. With this, most students deem it unnecessary to even study different languages, especially if they are looking at overseas work wherein communication will most probably be done in English.
Another reason given by the MLA’s Executive Director Rosemary Feal on the decrease in the enrollment is the trend of courses students are inclined to take at present. Students tend to gravitate to career-related subjects, like business classes. So there is now less time for language classes, which some students do not deem as essential as taking a business class.
According to the Associate Professor and Chair of the Spanish and Portuguese Studies Department at the University of Florida, the students nowadays are under more pressure to land a high-paying job after graduating. Therefore they prioritize classes that would aid them in achieving their goals, such as taking businesses classes or the like. Classes in humanities or the liberal arts are not given priority anymore. Instead the more practical choice for subjects are those that could be most useful in the work field.
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