American Students Lag Behind Europe in Foreign Language Education

foreign language education

The education system of the United States is similar to that of Europe in many ways, where students experience similar tasks, from exam preparation to writing them. However, as far as the foreign language education is considered, there is a glaring difference amongst the two.

In America, a relatively lower proportion of students study foreign language. On the other hand, learning a second language is almost a pervasive experience for Europe students.

Most European countries mandates studying languages formally in schools at national-level. However, the US is away from any such national standards. The requirements in the US are mostly set at the school district or state level.

Students across Europe usually study their first foreign language as a part of their school subject, between the ages of 6-9. Moreover, in more than 20 European countries, it is compulsory to study a second language for at least one year.

Where in the US, only a few K-12 students take part in foreign language education. According to a report of 2017, from the non-profit American Councils for International Education, only 20 per cent of K-12 students across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, are registered in foreign language classes.

With 51 per cent, New Jersey has the maximum number of students studying a language. It is followed by the District of Columbia with 47 per cent, and Wisconsin with 36 per cent. Yet, an extensive majority of states account less than 25 per cent participation. Besides, in New Mexico, Arizona and Arkansas, only 9 per cent students are studying a foreign language.

For high school students, the District of Columbia and ten states have foreign language graduation requirements. The graduation requirements of 24 states can either be fulfilled with foreign language classes, or by other non-language assignments. Besides, there are 16 states do not have any graduation guidelines regarding foreign language education.

In a report of 2016 by Pew Research Center, only 36 per cent Americans stated that in today’s economy foreign languages are an extremely important trait to possess. However, amongst the eight skills for workers’ success, knowing a foreign language was ranked last. With such perceptions and the education system, Americans lag in foreign languages as compared to Europe.


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