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Language of Choice, Making the Right Moves To Communicate with the Masses

Aug 17, 2007
Have you ever pondered over which language you should put your mind to learning? Or perhaps which new language you should advise your middle school child to register for next school year? Sitting next to a family of four (mother, father, high school son and middle school son) and mercilessly eavesdropping, I was flabbergasted by the conversation taking place about which foreign language to study and the various reasons why. All were in agreement that the boys needed to complete two years of foreign language study prior to the end of high school; the disagreement that ensued was about which foreign language to take and why.

I am not much of a stats geek, however I do study the trends as I like to keep informed in the educational genre of our society as a mom and as an educator. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2007 Statistical Abstract there are more than 265 million people age five and over in our country, and 216 million of them speak English in their home. The family involved in this nearby conversation clearly never read the rest of the report, tends not to listen to the languages being spoken around them in their community or simply does not care which language would be found most useful and practical as the boys travel through our United States of America.

According to this stats abstract the Spanish language was a huge second place finisher with more than 30 million people speaking Spanish followed way behind by Chinese with 2.3 million. Now, granted, the high school son was very vocal expressing how he did not like his last semester of Spanish and was changing next school year to German or maybe French.

I almost slipped a beverage napkin onto their table with the link to the site stating German was way low in the population count of this abstract stating 1 million people in the U.S. speak German in their home lagging just behind French who touts 1.3 million people speaking French in the home.

Our decisions to study one language or another need to revolve around three strong considerations:

The potential future use of the target language in your future. Perhaps this boy sitting next to me planned to marry a girl of German descent or travel to Germany to work in some export business tied to the U.S. Do you have future plans of working with a specific company who deals specifically with particular countries?

Current resources available within your geographic and monetary means. Is there a language course available in the target language? Do you have the motivation to study and learn this new language? Is the course affordable or is the program you are looking to purchase approachable?

History or connection with the target language. Perhaps you have an ethnic tie to this new language. Did you grow up hearing this target language spoken in the home of a relative? Do your parents guide you gently in your decision based on their understanding of the current global needs?

We all see the need to expand our horizons beyond speaking just English. Now we need to give strong and thoughtful consideration to just what that new language of learning should be.
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