Languages in the United States

Language-learning trendsLanguages           spoken in the U.S.More language           statistics

Language-learning trends in the United  States

More Americans are Studying Languages than Ever Before

NDE: One has to be careful in studying/reading those data and stats

Here is one example: (Enrolment in French)

2002:  201,979

2006:  206,426

2009: 216,419


According to a 2006             survey by the Modern Language Association, more college students             in the U.S. are studying languages than ever before. Over 1.5 million             college students were enrolled in language courses in Fall 2006. Overall,             enrollments in post-secondary language education jumped 13 percent as compared with 2002. This is following a nearly 18 percent increase in language enrollments between             1998 and 2002. The continued upsurge is easily attributable to increased interest             in languages, as general undergraduate enrollments increased only 6.2 percent between 2002 and 2006 and             7.5 percent during the previous 4-year period. Yet the number of foreign language courses taken on a percentage basis of enrollments is only  about half of the 1965 rate of 16.5 percent.

What languages are Americans learning?

Spanish continues — as it has since 1970 — to be the most widely               taught language at American colleges and universities across the               country. Enrollments in French, German, and Russian continue to grow at a  steady pace, while the               percentages of students taking American Sign Language, Italian, Japanese,  Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, and Korean              have grown dramatically. Of the top 15 languages learned, Chinese and Arabic               grew most rapidly on a percentage basis during the period under               study.

Top 15 Languages Learned in the U.S.
(based on Fall 2006 Enrollments in                 U.S. Institutions of Higher Education)
Language % of Enrollment   Language % of Enrollment
1. Spanish 52.2% 9. Russian 1.6%
2. French 13.1% 10. Arabic 1.5%
3. German 6% 11. Ancient Greek 1.4%
4. American Sign Language 5% 12. Biblical Hebrew 0.9%
5. Italian 5% 13. Portuguese 0.7%
6. Japanese 4.2% 14. Modern Hebrew 0.6%
7. Chinese 3.3%   15. Korean 0.5%
8. Latin 2%      

In addition to the traditionally taught languages, American college             and university students are learning 204 less commonly taught languages             indigenous to regions throughout the world. These include such languages             as Amharic, Swahili, Persian, Hindi, Modern Greek, Hawai’ian, Polish, and Vietnamese.

Regional differences in language interests are also apparent. Interest             in Italian and Hebrew is strongest in the northeastern United States, Florida, and in pockets along the West Coast.             Asian languages, including  Chinese, Japanese and             Korean, are most popular on the Pacific Coast. The distribution of             Spanish and Arabic is fairly even.

Data are from the MLA Survey report “Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2006“.

And here are the             2002 data for the sake of comparison.

Top 12 Languages Learned in the U.S. in 2002
(based on Fall 2002 Enrollments in                 U.S. Institutions of Higher Education)
Language % of Enrollment   Language % of Enrollment
1. Spanish 53% 7. Chinese 2.4%
2. French 14.4% 8. Latin 1.9%
3. German 7.1% 9. Russian 1.7%
4. Italian 4.5% 10. Ancient Greek 1.5%
5. American Sign Language 4.3% 11. Biblical Hebrew 1%
6. Japanese 3.7% 12. Arabic 0.7%

            2002 data are from the MLA Newsletter (Spring 2004) and the             ADFL Bulletin, Vol. 35.2-3 (Winter-Spring 2004).