Short of funding, elementary and middle schools are dropping foreign language study, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
From 1997 to 2008, the share of all U.S. elementary schools offering language classes fell from 31% to 25%, while middle schools dropped from 75% to 58%. High school language instruction was static, according to the nationwide survey published this year by the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C.
The central Wisconsin village of Marathon City cut Chinese-language classes this year, after five years of offering the language. Why Chinese? Marathon City grows ginseng, used in Chinese herbal medicine. China is a major customer.
“In a world of global trade, a second language can be a surefire ticket to a career,” reporter John Schmid asserts.
Much of Europe and Asia, by contrast, make second and third languages compulsory, beginning early in grade school, according to Center for Applied Linguistics researcher Nancy Rhodes, who wrote the report on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.
“They will all become multilingual students of the world, while U.S. students plod along,” Rhodes said. “We’ll be left in the dust and unable to communicate with people around the world.”
Chinese grade-schoolers start learning English by third grade under a national law that supports Beijing’s export ambitions – which means China is producing English speakers by the hundreds of millions.
We’ll be able to communicate: They’re all learning English! It’s the language of trade. When the Chinese stop teaching English, we’re doomed.