IS LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE REALLY WORTH IT?

America’s language skills seem to stem from this one question and, since 93% of all college students in the United States are not enrolled in a language course, we can only deduce that language learning isn’t worth the money, the effort, or the commitment.

It all starts when budget priorities are determined, when language education finds itself at the same level as art and sport. Does it deserve substantial fundings? Is there going to be a return on that investment?

Achieving language proficiency is not an easy task; it takes years of studying, practising, and maintaining the skills mastered. But according to The Atlantic, it can be very rewarding: “The Joint National Committee for Languages reports that the language industry — which includes companies that provide language services and materials — employs more than 200,000 Americans. These employees earn an annual median wage of $80,000.”

Beyond the potential financial benefits of being multilingual, studies have shown that bilingual kids have better memory and grow up to be more accepting and tolerant. There are also some evidence that being bilingual delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease’s symptoms. Not only that, but at a point in time when international relations are as important as they are now (the US has bases in at least 74 countries and troops practically everywhere the world), learning a foreign language should be seen as a window on a culture, a path to understand the ways of billions of people who live in the same world as us.

So, why less than 1% of American adults are proficient in a foreign language that they studied in a classroom? Is it really a problem about the budget allocated to language education in the US? Or is it a lack of effort from the students who believe that language learning is not worth it because English is the only language you really need out there?

H/T: The Atlantic

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