A new report from the Modern Language Association shows a dramatic decrease in the number of college students enrolled in foreign language classes.
The Washington Post reported that 100,000 fewer students were enrolled in foreign language classes in 2013 than in 2009. The decrease in language enrollment was also present in popular language classes, such as Spanish, marking the first time since 1958 that enrollment in Spanish has fallen.
Writing for the Post's Wonkblog, Roberto A. Ferdman said students may be prioritizing more practical classes in the face of economic woes. With business management being the most popular subject nationwide, students are looking for classes offering immediate practical application.
Colleen Flaherty, reporting for Inside Higher Ed, quoted Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA, saying, “We don’t know if what’s happened is part of the overall decrease in humanities enrollments. One pressure that I think a lot of students are feeling is to concentrate all their educational eggs in baskets that appear to be career ready.”
Gillian Lord, associate professor and chairwoman of the department of Spanish and Portuguese studies at the University of Florida, told Inside Higher Ed that the data regarding Spanish classes reflects trends in the classroom, such as students avoiding the humanities.
According to Language Magazine, the report showed students who do pursue language studies become more proficient. The report also shows languages most popular among students are Chinese and American Sign Language.
Researchers have concluded that while there is a decrease in the overall enrollment in language classes, the increase in enrollment at the advanced level suggests students who do pursue the study of language are more serious than ever, wrote Kristal Bivona for Language Magazine.
Researchers said the next step is to study successful language programs, saying, “Such programs need to be studied, for they are apparently remarkable models of effective foreign language teaching and learning, all the more so in time of financial constraints, challenges to the profession, and general disregard for language study.”
Leslie Corbly is a senior at the University of Oklahoma. She loves to read, write and run. Leslie can be contacted at email@example.com