The United States is a long way from being the multi-lingual society that so many of our economic competitors are. Only about 10 percent of native-born Americans — individuals who went through our education system — speak a language other than English.
But that’s not the only problem. In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that 95% of American college students studying languages were studying a Western language. That means that less than 5% of our total undergraduate population is being prepared to engage with non-European cultures at home or abroad.
To get a little more specific, the Modern Language Association reports that, in 2010, less than 100 American undergraduates studied Bengali, the 7th most spoken language worldwide. Compare that to the 215,954 who studied French, the 16th most spoken. More.