From the Council on Foreign Relations: Americans are lousy at learning foreign languages. We all know the historical reasons – the United States was long a big, largely monolingual country with a fairly self-sufficient economy. U.S. economic and military might (and that of the British Empire before) spread the English language across the world, so that English became the global second language and the de facto language of international business.
But in the latest Renewing America Policy Innovation Memorandum, A Languages For Jobs Initiative, scholars from the Center for Applied Linguistics argue that Americans in the future are unlikely to get by so well on English alone. Nearly 30 percent of the U.S. economy is now wrapped up in international trade, and half of U.S. growth since the official end of the recession in 2009 has come from exports. The fastest-growing economies in the world are not English speaking. And as Brad Jensen of Georgetown University has shown, the most promising export sector for the United States is business services, which often requires face-to-face interactions with foreign customers. As the authors write: “[F]uture U.S. growth will increasingly depend on selling U.S. goods and services to foreign consumers who do not necessarily speak English.” Continuez ici.