China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language and the College Board Announce New Chinese Language and Culture Initiative
New Agreement Will Build Chinese Language Programs in U.S. Schools
NEW YORK—A five-year plan to collaborate on a new Chinese Language and Culture Initiative was announced today by China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban) and the College Board. A Chinese education delegation, led by Minister of Education Zhou Ji of the People's Republic of China, attended the signing of an agreement for the first year of the partnership at 11:15 a.m. on April 19, 2006, at the College Board's New York Office. College Board President Gaston Caperton and Hanban Director-General Xu Lin signed the agreement on behalf of both parties in a ceremony also attended by representatives from the Chinese Consulate in New York City.
Heralded by Caperton as "good for U.S. students, good for the United States, and good for the world in the twenty-first century," the initiative will address the critical shortage of teachers of Chinese in the United States, support schools wishing to begin new Chinese language programs, expand professional development for teachers and the production of high-quality instructional materials, and provide students with a pipeline to the College Board's new AP® Chinese Language and Culture Exam.
Established by the Chinese government in 1987, Hanban is the nation's official agency authorized to promote Chinese language and culture internationally, fulfilling a function similar to that of the UK's British Council and France's Alliance Française. Chinese is the national language of the more than 1.3 billion inhabitants of China and millions more ethnic Chinese around the globe and is the world's most widely spoken language.
"We are pleased and enthusiastic about this initiative between the College Board and Hanban," said Caperton. "We appreciate the support Hanban will be giving us to help American students learn Chinese, discover the vibrant culture of China, and participate more fully in the cultural exchange between our two countries. At a time when more than 200 million children in China are studying English, yet only 24,000 children in the United States are studying Chinese, this initiative is one whose time has surely come. The College Board is proud to help the thousands of schools that want to offer their students a twenty-first-century choice."
Having received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from SUNY-Buffalo in 1984, Minister Zhou possesses a deep and personal appreciation of the value of language learning in education. Zhou said, "We warmly welcome education institutions from all over the world to join us in our efforts for international promotion of the Chinese language, and we are willing to strengthen cooperation in fields of common interest. Institutions such as the College Board and universities that are hosting Confucius Institutes have taken the first steps, and we hope more institutions among you will join us."
In an AP survey conducted in 2004, nearly 2,400 high schools expressed an interest in offering the AP Chinese course in 2006-07, but for many of these schools, this goal may go unrealized. They either are understaffed or have no teacher of Chinese, and many see no prospect of finding the teachers necessary to build their programs. This increasingly common predicament underscores the critical shortage of qualified teachers of Chinese in the United States.
In response, the plan announced today will temporarily place 150 guest teachers from China in American classrooms over the next three years. To ensure program continuity when the guest teachers return to China, the plan will also enable the College Board to support nearly 300 American teacher candidates in their efforts to attain state certification to teach Chinese.
Even before today's signing, the plan's partners had already moved forward with a number of the projects outlined in the agreement. In an immediate effort to support the ongoing professional development of teachers already in the classroom, 60 American teachers of Chinese will benefit from intensive, three-week Summer Institutes to be held at Beijing Normal University and Shanghai International Studies University this summer. These programs will expand to include greater numbers of teachers and to involve cities beyond Beijing and Shanghai in the coming years. In all, nearly 600 American teachers of Chinese will have access to these programs over the next five years.
Also starting without delay is a program in which, each year, 400 American educators will have the opportunity to travel to China during the summer months to become familiar with China's people, language, culture, and education systems. Beyond the obvious benefits of cultural enrichment these tours will offer, it is anticipated that they will also provide incentives and strategies for the educators to return to the United States better able to support the growth of Chinese programs in their own districts.
Hanban's contribution will further enable the College Board to support a number of other initiatives, including the provision of financial support to nearly 2,000 schools that may be struggling to manage the introduction or expansion of their Chinese programs.
"Only by preparing our students to thrive in a global society," Caperton said, "will it be possible for the United States to form strong ties with one of the world's most exciting cultures. The Chinese Language and Culture Initiative will help build an educational bridge to a country whose growing importance in the world is undeniable. For American students to be prepared to work and succeed in a global economy, they must better understand world languages and cultures, if we are to bring prosperity and peace to the world."
In 2003, the Trustees of the College Board approved in principle a plan for four new AP courses and examinations in world languages: Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Russian. For U.S. students to be ready to take college-level courses, they must be prepared with the basics in elementary and secondary school. This initiative will help them be ready to take on advanced study and to become citizens in a global economy.
For more information, please contact the Public Affairs office at 212 713-8052.
Posted by Concerned Parent, a member of the Fairmeadow School community, on Jun 30, 2006 at 4:16 pm
Thanks for more information on a subject of special interest to you. Bilingual children will certainly have an enhanced skill set of value for their future. And parents certainly have a right to pick and choose enrichment programs that meet their own particular interests and priorities (its called private school.)
However, there are other equally as strategically important and globally competitive skills that we could be bringing to all the students across our district. I'm sure federal funding would be available if we look.
For example, a few minutes on the web brought this interesting info (below). Renewable/Alternative energy will be a vast area of economic growth and opportunity in the future. We should focus on improved science and math skills - and this could be a skill set we could enrich ~all~ our kids with.
This particular program might not work for our district, but the point is that something ~like~ this is out there...
There are only so many limited resources to go around, shouldn't we attempt to find programs that benefit as many as possible, in a fair and balanced way, in a public school system?
And the info about the program is....
The mission of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) is to expand environmental and energy literacy. This effort involves educational programming, energy projects, and related public outreach activities throughout the United States and abroad. All of our programming, projects, and activities include participation from environmental groups, businesses and industries, and government agencies. We bring together people with diverse views and interests and help them to work toward a common goal.
FEE is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization located in Columbus, Ohio and San Francisco, California. Our newest office in San Francisco is at the Presidio.
The foundation partners with investor owned electric utility companies such as American Electric Power, Commonwealth Edison, PG&E, as well as municipal power authorities to develop educational programs that describe the ways in which electricity is produced and how energy is used by local communities. The foundation’s current initiatives include both solar electric and solar thermal energy systems. The solar electric projects involve the installation of photovoltaic power systems at schools both in the United States and abroad. The solar thermal projects involve the installation of solar water heating units on fire stations, YMCA’s, and public housing.
The NEED Project and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) are pleased to partner for the second year of the PG&E Solar Schools program. This program helps schools in the PG&E service area access resources to enhance the classroom experience, teach students about solar power, and receive the training necessary to teach about solar energy in the classroom.
Local schools today face unprecedented financial challenges. Rising costs coupled with less funding from traditional sources have led many to cut back on programs that enrich children’s lives. This is particularly true for schools in underserved communities.
This program is funded by a grant from:
PG&E, in partnership with NEED and the Foundation for Environmental Education, has developed a program that assists local public schools with energy resources, science project grants, and supports local teachers with a specialized curriculum—all at no cost to the school.
About the Program
Installation of a solar generation system for the school’s educational use. This year, up to thirty schools will be selected to receive these systems at no cost. The Foundation for Environmental Education will work with schools to make their installation project a great success. Ten schools were selected in 2004, 20 in 2005 and 30 in 2006.
The first 10 schools were recognized on August 16, 2005 by Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.
Glenview Elementary School (Oakland)
Walnut Grove Elementary School (Pleasanton)
Robert F. Kennedy School (San Jose)
Barry School (Yuba City)
Gold Oak Arts Charter School (Placerville)
Winship Middle School (Eureka)
Evergreen 6th Grade Academy (Paradise)
Redwood Elementary School (Fort Bragg)
Admiral Akers Elementary School (Lemoore)
and Roosevelt High School (Fresno)
Solar Curriculum and Training for K-12 schools. This year, PG&E will provide grants allowing over 600 teachers to attend NEED energy workshops and to receive classroom kits and curriculum. Workshops are planned for ten locations in the PG&E Service Area in 2006. These one-day workshops provide instruction and background to teachers, allow for networking, and prepare participants to return to their classrooms with the tools and knowledge to teach about solar energy.
To receive announcements about the training programs, please email email@example.com and provide name, school name, school address, city, state, and zip.
“Bright Ideas” grants. This year, PG&E will award local schools grants of $2,500 and $5,000 to fund solar science projects. $200,000 in funding is available.
Twenty-nine schools received "Bright Ideas" Grants in 2005.
Mt. Diablo High School (Tom Azwell/Sandy Johnson-Shaw) - Concord
Plainfield Elementary (Ruth Barajas) - Woodland
Lake Don Pedro Elementary (Loree Ann Burroughs) - La Grange
Martin Luther King, Jr. School (David Chandler) - Seaside
Diamond View School (Lisa Scotti) - Susanville
Clovis West High School (Becky Avants) - Fresno
Jack L. Boyd Outdoor School (Peter Leinau) - Fish Camp
Pioneer Elementary School (Andrea Hardman) - Brentwood
San Joaquin County Juvenile Camp (Barry Scott) - French Camp
East Palo Alto Charter School (Catherine Umana) - East Palo Alto
Freedom Middle School (Rosann Wattonville) - Bakersfield
Salmon Creek School (Laurel Anderson) - Occidental
Westminster Woods Environmental Education Center (April McIntosh) - Occidental
California School for the Deaf ( David Keim) - Fremont
Independence School (Linda Driver) - Stockton
Hoover Elementary School (Jane Yuster) - Redwood City
Camp Arroyo (Kathryn Swartz) - Livermore
San Lorenzo High School (Aaron Vanderwerff) - San Lorenzo
Marin Primary and Middle School (Linda Perrella) - Larkspur
Mattole Valley Charter School - Dunes of Discovery (Beverly Prosser) - Arcata
Burrel Union Elementary School (Mary Funk) - Burrel
Sierra Middle School (Bob Hodash) - Bakersfield
Sheldon High School (Jon Wehner and Kristen Couchot) - Sacramento
Fairmont Elementary School (Daneen Cali) - El Cerrito
Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy (Yassin Jacob) - Oakland
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jul 1, 2006 at 11:08 am
Concerned parents in Palo Alto,
I encourage you to take the initiative to seek out grants for other programs to be added or expanded to the Palo Alto school system. The guidelines for expanding or implementing large-scale programs is on the PAUSD Choice Schools and Programs website:
In the same way parents have supported sports fund-raising (lights, pool, basketball reflooring), foreign language education (FLAP grant for Mandarin), there *are* opportunities to enrich our children's education in many way.
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 5, 2006 at 4:54 pm
Booster funding for capital improvements, which are one time balance sheet items for the district, are not a valid comparison to a proposal for a new ongoing educational program. New educational programs will require ongoing expenditure of management time, space, curriculum development, refreshed materials, classroom costs, district overhead costs, and therefore, perpetual new revenue generation forever after, or until the program goes away. Capital improvements like lights are an asset paid for up front by a club, while educational programs are ongoing Profit/Loss items (Revenue - Expense) for the district.
But, in reality I disagree that we should all rush out and look for grant funding to get our own pet projects into the district. The idea that there should be special interest 'bandwidth' in the district available for sale is an unfair, unreasonable way for a public school district to make curriculum decisions. It should come down simply to community needs and priorities.
Additionally, one time grant funding for ~any~ special interest programming (mine or yours) is potentially poor decision making, because the district needs to cover incremental upkeep into perpetuity. So, even if we can bluff the district into thinking we offer a good deal, by finding $170K or so for the initial start up today (which sounds like a great deal in the short term), we must address ongoing cost. Every hour spent on a special interest program is an hour not available for other district programs. And time equals money. Even if money is the only object the district needs to be looking at the financial impact across the lifetime of any programs it considers. Full allocated overhead of each program should be considered when making a revenue/cost decision, so that each special program is held accountable for all district overhead incurred by its existence.
But beyond costs, the district should be making programming decisions based on long term community goals, priorities that best cover the needs and goals of the community it serves. Therefore, I will not be attempting to get my pet projects into the district. I'll let the community be the judge of the merits of science, math and technology versus other special interest programs it might choose.
Posted by Grace Mah, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jul 7, 2006 at 9:12 am
President Bush Brings Languages Front and Center
Here is additional information from President Bush's announcement concerning new language education initiatives in the United States.
From the U.S. Department of State
National Security Language Initiative
Office of the Spokesman
January 5, 2006
National Security Language Initiative
Briefing by Dina Powell, Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs and
Barry Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
President Bush today launched the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), a plan to further strengthen national security and prosperity in the 21st century through education, especially in developing foreign language skills. The NSLI will dramatically increase the number of Americans learning critical need foreign languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Farsi, and others through new and expanded programs from kindergarten through university and into the workforce. The President will request $114 million in FY07 to fund this effort.
An essential component of U.S. national security in the post-9/11 world is the ability to engage foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical regions, to encourage reform, promote understanding, convey respect for other cultures and provide an opportunity to learn more about our country and its citizens. To do this, we must be able to communicate in other languages, a challenge for which we are unprepared.
Deficits in foreign language learning and teaching negatively affect our national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence communities and cultural understanding. It prevents us from effectively communicating in foreign media environments, hurts counter-terrorism efforts, and hamstrings our capacity to work with people and governments in post-conflict zones and to promote mutual understanding. Our business competitiveness is hampered in making effective contacts and adding new markets overseas.
To address these needs, under the direction of the President, the Secretaries of State, Education and Defense and the Director of National Intelligence have developed a comprehensive national plan to expand U.S. foreign language education beginning in early childhood and continuing throughout formal schooling and into the workforce, with new programs and resources.
The agencies will also seek to partner with institutions of learning, foundations and the private sector to assist in all phases of this initiative, including partnering in the K-16 language studies, and providing job opportunities and incentives for graduates of these programs.
The National Security Language Initiative has three broad goals:
Expand the number of Americans mastering critical need languages and start at a younger age by:
* Providing $24 million to create incentives to teach and study critical need languages in K-12 by re-focusing the Department of Education’s Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grants.
* Building continuous programs of study of critical need languages from kindergarten to university through a new $27 million program, which will start in 27 schools in the next year through DOD’s NSEP program and the Department of Education, and will likely expand to additional schools in future years.
* Providing State Department scholarships for summer, academic year/semester study abroad, and short-term opportunities for high school students studying critical need languages to up to 3,000 high school students by summer 2009.
* Expanding the State Department Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program, to allow 300 native speakers of critical need languages to come to the U.S. to teach in U.S. universities and schools in 2006-07.
* Establishing a new component in State’s Teacher Exchange Programs to annually assist 100 U.S. teachers of critical need languages to study abroad.
* Establishing DNI language study "feeder" programs, grants and initiatives with K-16 educational institutions to provide summer student and teacher immersion experiences, academic courses and curricula, and other resources for foreign language education in less commonly taught languages targeting 400 students and 400 teachers in 5 states in 2007 and up to 3,000 students and 3,000 teachers by 2011 in additional states.
Increase the number of advanced-level speakers of foreign languages, with an emphasis on critical needs languages by:
* Expanding the National Flagship Language Initiative to a $13.2 million program aiming to produce 2,000 advanced speakers of Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Persian, Hindi, and Central Asian languages by 2009.
* Increasing to up to 200 by 2008 the annual Gilman scholarships for financially-needy undergraduates to study critical need languages abroad.
* Creating new State Department summer immersion study programs for up to 275 university level students per year in critical need languages.
* Adding overseas language study to 150 U.S. Fulbright student scholarships annually.
* Increasing support for immersion language study centers abroad.
Increase the number of foreign language teachers and the resources for them by:
* Establishing a National Language Service Corps for Americans with proficiencies in critical languages to serve the nation by:
1. Working for the federal government; and/or
2. Serving in a Civilian Linguist Reserve Corps (CLRC); and/or
3. Joining a newly created Language Teacher Corps to teach languages in our nation’s elementary, middle, and high schools.
This program will direct $14 million in FY07 with the goal of having 1,000 volunteers in the CLRC and 1,000 teachers in our schools before the end of the decade.
* Establishing a new $1 million nation-wide distance-education E-Learning Clearinghouse through the Department of Education to deliver foreign language education resources to teachers and students across the country.
* Expand teacher-to-teacher seminars and training through a $3 million Department of Education effort to reach thousands of foreign language teachers in 2007.
Posted by concerned parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2006 at 1:33 pm
It sounds like you are suggesting that its a good idea because the bush administration tells us its a good idea and they're willing to pay for it. Not sure that's a good assumption, and about 70% of Americans would probably question that logic, depending on which national opinion poll you read. Some of the adminstration's actions and decisions are so slimy, some are possibly even illegal if you believe recent supreme court rulings and such like that. The bush administration thinks A LOT of things are strategic priorities (War in Iraq, spying on phone calls, ignoring Geneva Convention, etc). In fact, even the creation of the role "Director of National Intelligence" (which is one of the driving forces mentioned above) is under scrutiny by lawmakers. (see copy of article below)
(Which brings up an interesting aside, when this adminstration is gone, what happens to the programs they funded as "strategic priorities"? I guess the funding goes away, and MI will have to be funded at home anyway..)
I think its interesting that both you and Dana Tom have used as defense for MI "The US Government says Mandarin, Russian and Arabic are 'strategic priorities' and they're willing to pay for it." As if this automatically tells Palo Alto residents something of importance and value. As if this tells us even a single thing about what's in the best interest of our own children here in Palo Alto.
Actually, it probably should be signaling most thinking human beings to be wary, and question motives. If something sounds too good to be true (like free money) it probably is... A concerned parent might ask themselves, What sort of "job opportunities and incentives for graduates" of these programs might the DOD and National Security Agency be 'offering' my child once they become 'strategically important' to the government??? Sounds a bit like the Army offering a great 'free' college education to high schoolers at the recruiting office. Free at what price?
Hmmm... if I were personally considering language education for my kids, I would probably say 'thanks but no thanks' to the adminstration's slimy money, and go ahead and do it on my own dime.
PAUSD should think and act for themselves, decide on what's important for our own kids, and write their own checks. How about some good old fasioned integrity here? If its worth doing, its worth doing. In fact, if its not too late, I think the board should recall its grant application.
The LAST thing that helps the MI argument is "president bush thinks its a great idea - and look he's giving us a big ole pot of money for it!" yipee You'd be better off sticking to the merits. I sure hope you're not seriously saying 'strategic importance' is one of them.
WASHINGTON - The White House possibly broke the law by keeping intelligence activities a secret from the lawmakers responsible for overseeing them, the House Intelligence Committee chairman said Sunday.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., said he was informed about the programs by whistleblowers in the intelligence community and then asked the Bush administration about the programs, using code names. Hoekstra said members of the House and Senate intelligence committees then were briefed on the programs, which he said is required by law.
"We can't be briefed on every little thing that they are doing," Hoekstra said. "But in this case, there was at least one major — what I consider significant activity that we have not been briefed on. I want to set the standard there that it is not optional for this president or any president or people in the executive community not to keep the intelligence committees fully informed of what they are doing," he said on "Fox News Sunday."
Hoekstra complained to President Bush in a letter dated May 18 that was disclosed in Sunday's New York Times.
In the letter, Hoekstra said the failure to brief the intelligence committees "may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of law and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."
Frederick Jones, spokesman for Bush's National Security Council, said the only comment the White House would have on the letter was that the administration "will continue to work closely with the chairman and other congressional leaders on important national security issues."
Hoekstra has been critical of the administration before. In his letter, he also objected to the president's nominees for the director and deputy director of the CIA. He also complains about the role of the director of national intelligence — a position created in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Aware of the challenges ahead, American students are rushing to learn Chinese.
By William Lee Adams
May 9 issue - At Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, the roster for Advanced Chinese V begins with Jason Chao and ends with Kathy Zhang. In between comes an unexpected name: Elizabeth Hoffman. Hoffman, now a 12th grader, began studying Chinese in the eighth grade, has spent a summer studying in Nanjing and plans to perfect her Mandarin when she starts college next fall. When asked by her peers—who typically take Spanish—why she is learning Chinese, she responds with a question: "Why aren't you?"
As China rushes toward superpower status, America's schools and government officials are echoing Hoffman's sentiment. Earlier this year Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey introduced legislation calling for increased funding of programs for less commonly taught languages. "For reasons of economics, culture and security we should have much better facility with Chinese languages and dialects," he says. The State Department has designated Chinese a "critical language," but the most recent data show that only 24,000 students in grades 7 to 12 study Chinese, a language spoken by 1.3 billion people worldwide. (More than 1 million students learn French, a language spoken by 75 million people.)
Still, the number is growing. In Chicago public schools, enrollment in Chinese classes has skyrocketed from 500 students in 1999 to nearly 3,500 students this year—and most of these students are Caucasian, African-American or Hispanic. In the Santa Clara County, Calif., district, enrollment has quadrupled during the same period. In 2007, when the College Board debuts advanced-placement language exams in Chinese and Italian, 2,400 high schools plan to offer AP Chinese—10 times the number that plan to offer AP Italian.
Much of the interest can be explained by China's increasing competitiveness. "People are always trying to gauge what languages are going to be useful for the future," says Marty Abbot, director of education at the National Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. After the sputnik launch in 1957, and after the rise of Japan's economy in the late ' 80s, funding for Russian and Japanese language programs grew dramatically—as did enrollment. Stephanie Wong, a student at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif., chose Chinese so that she could speak with her grandfather. (In U.S. homes, Chinese has eclipsed French, German and Italian to become the third most commonly spoken language, after English and Spanish.) Wong also predicts that Chinese will be important if she becomes a doctor, as she hopes: her hometown is nearly 80 percent Asian.
Even elementary-school parents have caught on. "My children will have a distinct advantage if I can keep them interested in Chinese," says Julie Dobson, who enrolled her two children—Elliot, 8, and Lindsey, 9—in a dual-immersion program in Chinese instead of Spanish. At her children's school, Potomac Elementary in Potomac, Md., 30 percent of students receive math and science instruction in Chinese starting in kindergarten.
The next challenge: finding enough teachers to meet the growing demand. Certification requirements—such as tests of English proficiency and American pedagogy—can prevent native Chinese speakers from gaining certification. And teachers often must create their own textbooks and curriculum. "We all have to be pioneers and develop the program," says teacher Sarah Ting of Dulles High School. In spite of these difficulties—and the fact that her school is 300 miles from Mexico—Ting keeps trying. She began with 50 students in 1998 and today has nearly 200. That's progress, no matter which language you speak.
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2006 at 6:10 pm
Great! Excellent! So I'll just pop over to the district's community priority survey from March of this year, posted online, and marvel at how highly the community, parents, teachers and students value language over other subjects.... Oh wait a sec... 6th out of 12 in subjects of importance for Parents, and 10th out of 12 in subjects of importance for the Community... I don't understand. So the PAUSD constituency is not yet on board with the value of language over other competing district priorities?
Well, that's OK, whether they know what's good for them or not, at least we've got a plan. So we have a proposal on the table to offer the critical Chinese language to students across the district in a comprehensive, fair and balanced way (or at least some language.) Oh. Well, not exactly.
But that's OK, lets just cram a program through ($ talks you know) that sneaks under the radar of district/community priority setting, and offer a fabulous, designer, enrichment program to just a lucky few? To heck with everyone else! We should just carve out a private little piece of the district for our own personal use, to do with it what we see fit. Yay! I can't understand why people aren't all for it.
Besides this article says 24 thousand students are already studying Chinese! (Out of 53 Million school age kids in the United States, that's a full .04%) I can see we're missing the wave here. I can definitely see the urgency in pressing this aggressively forward.
For most of their history, Americans have not had to bother themselves with learning a language other than English. With a few exceptions, foreigners' encounters with Americans meant that the burden of learning the other's language fell on the non-English speaker.
As it turns out, that wasn't necessarily a good thing. In a world of rapidly expanding communications and global markets, Americans might find themselves at a disadvantage as the number of multilingual speakers is accelerating in other large and growing economies.
Yet, recent surveys show that learning a foreign language remains a low priority for American students and at the schools and universities that teach them. According to the U.S. Department of Education, fewer than 8 percent of undergraduates take a foreign language class each year, and only 1 percent of undergraduate degrees conferred in a given year are in a foreign language.
Many of today's college students graduate without a working knowledge of a language other than English.
That might be fine for now, but many experts caution that the global usage of English will gradually decline.
Speaking English is becoming less of an advantage and more of a "near-universal basic skill," concluded a report released earlier this year by the British Council, an international English educational organization. For this reason, those who speak only English, "face a bleak economic future," the report concluded.
Around the world, people are studying languages such as Spanish and Mandarin. In Portuguese-speaking Brazil, for instance, a 2005 law now requires all high schools to offer Spanish courses as an alternative to learning English. The Chinese government predicts that within a few years, the number of people studying Mandarin will rise to 100 million. And more and more international students are choosing to study at non-English speaking schools over English ones.
Although many people speak English today, it is foolish to assume that English language skills alone will be sufficient to thrive. We need to learn other languages if we want to maintain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
The British Council estimates that the number of English speakers in the world will peak at two billion in a decade or so and then decline. American students who choose not to learn a second language will find themselves falling behind multilingual speakers.
But besides economic benefits, learning another's language helps us understand each other better. As a society that celebrates cultural diversity, we should realize the value of learning another language or two to better appreciate and contribute to the colorful world we live in.