There is no national requirement for foreign language learning for students in the United States but this is compulsory for students in Europe, where they should have learned one or two foreign languages before they reach their teen years.
In over 20 countries in Europe, a student should study a foreign language for a minimum of one year, with the first foreign language learned when they are between six and nine years of age. This is according to the report released by Eurostat. The age when a child starts to learn a foreign language varies by country. For example in Belgium, pupils as young as three years old already begin to study a foreign language, while school children in the United Kingdom starts at age 11.
On the other hand, the situation is different in Scotland and Ireland. While foreign language learning is not compulsory in these two locations, the students in Ireland learn Gaelic and English while students in Scotland start having foreign language classes between the ages of 10 and 18. Across European schools, English is the language most students learn.
Top languages to learn
Even without the compulsory rule on foreign languages, English is the top foreign language that students learn across the board in Europe. German and French come after English in terms of popularity. In certain parts of Europe, Russian and Spanish are very popular as well.
Situation in the United States
In the meantime, the situation is different in the United States as there is no national mandate for students to learn a foreign language at any school level. In most states, it is up to the school districts to include a foreign language in high school as a graduation requirement. Offering of foreign languages in the primary schools in the U.S. is still very low.
In some schools, non-language classes are offered in place of a foreign language course. In Oklahoma for example, a student could either take computer technology as a requirement for admission to college or take a two-year course in one foreign language. In California, students have the option to either take up a foreign language that includes American Sign Language (ASL) or a course work in the arts in high school.
However, high school students in New Jersey should show that they are proficient in another language or earn five credits at least in a world language before they are allowed to graduate from high school.
Statistics vary, but the number of Americans who can say that they acquired their proficiency in another language aside from English from their school is very low. Based on the numbers in the General Social Survey of 2006, there are only about 25 percent of American adults who reported that they speak another language aside from English, however, from this number, about 89 percent reported that they learned the language at home, while only 7 percent were able to say that they learned the skills from school.
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