Why Should You Learn a Foreign Language?

Only 7.3 percent of the world’s 7.2 billion people are native English speakers. This is one reason why language is one of the largest barriers between America and the rest of the world.

Studying a foreign language for at least one year is required in more than 20 European countries. America, however, doesn’t have a national requirement for foreign language learning in K-12 schools. So why should you learn a foreign language, and what languages are being explored in the U.S.?

Why is learning a foreign language important?

At Varsity Tutors, we are strong believers in the power of learning to bring people together and to establish new connections. This is important to remember as you consider classes and extracurriculars throughout high school and college.

Studying a foreign language has many advantages—academically, professionally, and personally. Having a foreign language on your high school transcript can look great when applying to college. It can also improve your attention and decision-making, open doors professionally, and allow you to connect more deeply with family, friends, classmates, and colleagues. Learning a foreign language that’s associated with a culture you admire can also immerse you in that culture in a new way—and speaking a foreign language can even lead to more travel opportunities and local connections in different countries!

[RELATED: What Does a Bilingual Education Mean for Your Child?]

What foreign languages are being studied in the U.S.?

We recently looked at our data to see which languages people are interested in learning, and how those interests differ between U.S. regions. What we found was intriguing.

Despite the fact that only one in five K-12 students in the U.S. study a world language, with language learning in U.S. colleges down more than 15 percent since 2009, people are taking initiative in their language learning.

Non-English language learning is on the rise. Varsity Tutors saw a 60% increase in non-English language tutoring requests for the first half of 2018 when compared to the first half of 2017. What were the three fastest growing languages for which we received inquiries?

  • Spanish

  • Mandarin Chinese

  • Japanese

There were 51 unique languages requested on the Varsity Tutors Live Learning Platform nationwide, and 80% of all states had tutoring requests in 10 or more languages.

[RELATED: How to Choose a Foreign Language to Study]

Which states are most diverse in their language learning interests?

The map below highlights how many state-specific language inquiries Varsity Tutors received in the first half of 2018, as well as an interesting request in each state. California led in diversity with 35 languages requested, and New York followed with 31.

From Afrikaans in Vermont and Serbian in Texas, to Catalan in North Carolina and Amharic in Oregon, it’s clear that the U.S. is still very curious about language learning—and that there are distinct differences in language learning across American regions.

Regardless of where you live, language learning plays a crucial role in opening doors to new opportunities and relationships. Where classrooms and public policy fall short, online learning provides people with the personalized tutoring they need to improve cross-cultural communications.

To learn more about language learning in the U.S. and to read our full report on the state of language learning in America, click here.