In a study conducted by the Modern Language Association, the number of U.S. college students studying a foreign language has steadily declined. The study pulled its data from enrollment data based on undergraduate introductory courses, as well as advanced degree courses. The data in this study revealed that there are fewer college students in the U.S. enrolling in classes other than English.
Historically, Spanish has been the top language that many students enroll in. However, that has changed now. Other languages, such as German, have also seen a steady decline. From 2013 to 2016, the number of students who are enrolled in a foreign language class across American universities fell by 9 percent.
However, one of the more interesting trends is the increased enrollment in Korean. Enrollment in Koran language courses went up by 65 percent. But this is put into perspective when you compare the number of students enrolled in Korean, 14,000, with the number of those enrolled in Spanish, 700,000.
Why Is This Important?
The U.S. has always lagged behind when it comes to learning foreign languages. The world is much smaller than it used to be, especially now that everything is becoming more globalized. There are many reasons why it is important to learn other languages beyond our mother tongue. Here are some of the top reasons why foreign language learning should be advocated.
Top Reasons Why Language Leaning Is Important
Although many of us remember struggling through our language courses in high school, often leaving us with nightmares regarding conjugation, we didn’t realize the opportunity that those language courses presented.
When you learn a foreign language, it gives you insight into how other cultures think. In doing so, it allows you to traverse the culture no matter if you are on vacation, studying abroad, or conducting business. Moreover, by immersing yourself in a foreign language, studies have shown that multi-lingual people are smarter, have better focus, and have creative problem-solving skills.
I personally wish I took my language courses more seriously. At the time, it was just something on the checklist that I needed to complete so I could move on to the next part of my educational career. Perhaps one of the causes contributing to this enrollment decline is lack of understanding and appreciation for language itself.
How to Potentially Make Language Learning More Achievable
Looking back on my language learning experience now, I think one of the biggest things that hindered me was context. Spanish often felt like an enigma. The little quirks that set Spanish apart from English were frustrating rather than enlightening. It was not until I took an introductory course in linguistics that everything started to make much more sense.
To make foreign language learning more achievable, I believe it would be productive to incorporate a linguistics course before someone starts learning a foreign language. A linguistics course gives people the opportunity to understand the many different parts of a language, how they function, and why languages are usually so much different from our mother tongue.
When I took an introductory course on linguistics, it gave me the context that I was missing. Before taking that course, conjugating Spanish verbs seemed like I was going through the motions of a math problem without really understanding what I was doing. Now I know that conjugation is the method by which you get to communicate an action in a specific time and place.
If you are determined to learn a foreign language, no matter what your reasons are, I recommend you take an introductory linguistics course. It won’t make the hard work any easier when learning a foreign language, but it will perhaps allow you to wrap your mind around concepts more quickly and allow you to fully achieve fluency in your desired language.