In the United States, 10 percent of native-born citizens report feeling “comfortable” speaking a language other than English (according to the 2010 Census.)
In Europe, more than half of native-born citizens can converse in a second language.
That’s a staggering gap in language skills— though not surprising given the United States’ long history as a mostly monolingual society.
But it’s a gap that some academics and economists warn is already putting American workers in a weak competitive position as the demands for bilingual and multilingual talent boom in the private and public sectors.
My colleague Alyssa Morones explores this issue in more depth in an Education Week story this week that you shouldn’t miss.
The growing number of students in public schools whose first language is not English certainly provides a major asset to build on, but would require a seachange in the way language education is approached in this country, with nearly all the focus being on developing English. There are pockets of thriving dual-language education, and as Alyssa points out, two states, Utah and Delaware, have taken steps to make language learning for all students a major priority.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.