The following report was published today by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).
A new Academy report, The State of Languages in the U.S.: A Statistical Portrait, describes the nation’s current language capacity, and shows a diminishing share of U.S. residents speak languages other than English. According to the report. this trend could have important consequences for business, international affairs, and intellectual exchange.
Among the key findings, the report:
- Estimates that only 10% of U.S. residents can speak a language other than English well.
- Highlights data that shows how quickly facility in a language other than English fades in immigrant households, even among those who immigrated to the U.S. as children.
- Points to evidence of the dwindling of language education at every level, from elementary education to the nation’s colleges;
- Offers a more nuanced picture of language skills by highlighting a continuum of expertise—ranging from a limited ability to speak or understand a language to advanced capacity to read and write in another language.
- Demonstrates the effects of a patchwork of local and state policies for language education at the K–12 level, with the share of students taking languages as high as 51% in New Jersey, and less than 13% in eight states;
In the Spring, the Academy’s Commission on Language Learning will respond to these findings by offering concrete recommendations and strategies to improve language education so that every U.S. citizen can share in the rewards and benefits of learning a language other than English. The Commission will highlight an emerging consensus among leaders in business and politics, teachers, scientists, and community members that proficiency in English is not sufficient to meet the nation’s needs in a shrinking world—even as English continues to be the lingua franca for international business and diplomacy.
Direct to Full Text Report Report (28 pages; PDF)