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Why Prospective Teachers Should Study Foreign Languages

Why Prospective Teachers Should Study Foreign Languages

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Start a degree program at American Public University.

By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Learning Tips 

For centuries, French was the language of diplomacy and international relations.

French came into its own in the 13th century. The language “was considered sophisticated and associated with high society, and many people chose to learn it to obtain greater wealth and higher social status,” the Legal Language Blog says.

By the 17th century, French was the lingua franca and the most spoken language in Europe. It was often used for diplomatic affairs between countries.

But English has taken over that role, spurred by political and societal changes such as:

French, however, remains one of the six recognized languages spoken at the United Nations. The other UN languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, Russian and Spanish.

Knowing Foreign Languages Becoming Vital for Teachers

Today, Foreign Service officers and international business executives are learning foreign languages once considered exotic or of little use. But they are not alone in the need to communicate in an increasingly diverse world where millions of people speak languages other than English. American K-12 teachers are instructing an increasing number of students who are English learners (ELs).

More English Learners Enrolling in US Public Schools

Between the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years, U.S. public schools enrolled 4.9 million ELs, 93 percent of whom received Title III services, according to the latest “Biennial Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Title III State Formula Grant Program” from the Department of Education.

More than 80 percent of the nation’s English learners are native speakers of Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and Haitian Creole. In addition, 48 different foreign languages are represented among the individual states’ top five most commonly spoken languages.

The Title III State Formula Grant Program is designed to improve the education of ELs by providing funds for “supplemental services that improve the English language proficiency and academic achievement of ELs.”

Between the school years of 2002–03 and 2013–14, the number of identified ELs in the United States increased by nearly 14 percent. The number of students served in Title III supported language instruction educational programs (LIEPs) increased by approximately 25 percent.

Among other results reported in the Biennial Report:

  • Spanish ranks as the top language spoken among ELs nationwide.
  • The highest number of Spanish-speaking ELs were in California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.
  • In 2012–13, Haitian Creole replaced Lao Hmong as the fifth most common language.
  • Between 2012–13 and 2013–14, Arabic replaced Chinese as the second most common language.
  • Chinese became the third most commonly spoken language.
  • Since 2006, the number of Arabic-speaking ELs has increased by 157 percent from 39,040 in 2006–2007 to 100,461 in 2013–14.
  • Asian-Pacific languages were represented by Bengali, Burmese, Japanese, Korean, Nepali, Urdu and Vietnamese among others.

The United States is truly a polyglot nation now. Anyone seeking a career in education at home or working abroad would be wise to think about enrolling in foreign language classes as soon as possible.

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