Why NJ Students Are Leading the US in Foreign Language Learning


Good morning! Hello! No hao! Good morning! Namaste! Konnichiwa! Merhaba!

If your child attends a school in New Jersey, chances are he knows the meaning of at least some of these words.

New Jersey, known for its strong education system, has the highest number of K-12 students learning a foreign language in school, according to a report by the American Councils for International Education. Compared to other states, we are off the charts.

A whopping 51% of New Jersey students are enrolled in foreign language courses, compared to 20% nationally. The Garden State is followed by Washington, DC, at 47%, and Wisconsin, at 36%.

“In our changing demographics, especially in New Jersey, learning a foreign language is an important attribute,” said Marty Abbott, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. “The more diverse communities we have, the more awareness we can have.”

And New Jersey is most certainly diverse.

Nearly a third of New Jersey residents now speak a language other than English at home, according to the US Census Bureau. This is due to the continued growth of the state’s immigrant population. The Garden State now ranks fourth in the number of non-English speaking residents behind Texas, New Mexico and California.

A total of 312,642 students are enrolled in Spanish classes in New Jersey, by far the most popular choice, followed by 61,269 in French, according to the report.

New Jersey’s success can be attributed to its statewide curriculum standards established in 1996, which aimed to educate students in such a way that all could speak at least one language other than English, said Michael Yaple, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

The effort saw foreign language learning as key to the state’s economic success.

“Children were expected to start learning a global language in the early grades, not just a few years of a global language in high school, and it was expected to be more involved than just teaching kids. elementary school students to count to 10 in Spanish,” Yaple said.

Yet New Jersey and the United States still lag behind their counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean.

Around 92% of pupils in European countries learn a foreign language at school, according to Eurostat. Indeed, most European countries impose compulsory teaching of foreign languages ​​at national level.

If you didn’t have the chance to learn multiple languages ​​when you were in school, you can start with this article. The words at the beginning of the story all mean “hello” in French, Persian, Chinese, German, Hindi, Japanese, and Arabic, respectively.

Disha Raychaudhuri can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Disha_RC.


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