Only about 10 percent of native-born Americans speak a language other than English.

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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:12
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People follow the money Sep 29, 2013

This article only mentions in passing that some of those languages with many native speakers are found in weaker economies.

Also neglected is the reason so many people study French, for example, as a second language. French is a lingua franca throughout the world, spoken in over 50 countries. Javanese, Lahnda, Telugu, Marathi, and Tamil (languages mentioned in the article) are localized languages. They are not good for conducting business on a wider geographic scale.

Speakers of languages such as Finnish and Danish learned a long time ago that you have to study a lingua franca, such as English or French if you want to communicate with others and perhaps do some business with them. The author of this article would have it the other way around.

It is no earth shattering news that native English speakers don't study languages much. The need is not as pressing for them given that so many people study English.

This article is giving me a suspicious feeling for some reason.

[Edited at 2013-09-29 15:37 GMT]

[Edited at 2013-09-29 15:42 GMT]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:12
English to Spanish
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Native-born Americans Sep 29, 2013

Who are described as being "native-born Americans"? There are many people born in the US of foreign-born parents or living in homes where another language is spoken even though the parents may also be US born; for example, Spanish passed through several generations of Hispanics, some even going back 100s of years in the US. So that figure may be too low.

On the other hand, if it refers to "native-born Americans from English-speaking homes", he figure may be too high.


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Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 17:12
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People follow the money Sep 29, 2013

Edward Potter wrote:
This article only mentions in passing that some of those languages with many native speakers are found in weaker economies.


Irrespective of the economy, I believe it is more important that languages, like Bengali for example, are spoken in a very limited and well-defined geographical area and by a generally ethnically homogeneous group in areas that the average American is unlikely to visit. I assume they don't mention Chinese but there are probably far less Cantonese or Mandarin students than French students, even though Chinese is spoken in several countries throughout the world and knowledge of it would be beneficial for business as well. The article also seems to define "Western Languages" as languages spoken in "Western Europe", which I think is a little silly.

I do take your point, however, that Bengali-speakers are likely to understand and communicate in English, while the reverse is not necessarily true. I also agree that the article doesn't really make a great argument for learning other languages!


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 00:12
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As written Sep 30, 2013

Henry Hinds wrote:

Who are described as being "native-born Americans"? There are many people born in the US of foreign-born parents or living in homes where another language is spoken even though the parents may also be US born; for example, Spanish passed through several generations of Hispanics, some even going back 100s of years in the US. So that figure may be too low.

On the other hand, if it refers to "native-born Americans from English-speaking homes", he figure may be too high.

Just because the parents speak another language doesn't mean the children do.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:12
Russian to English
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I think 10% may be about right. Sep 30, 2013

10% sounds right. Not too many people in the US speak other languages, especially if you refer to speaking them well. I am sure he meant all US born Americans -- not just some English speaking families -- that would have been a total nonsense -- a total misconception of associating American with Anglo-Saxon.

It is true that not all children of X language-speaking parents in the US speak the language of their parents in addition to English. More and more children do not, even the ones born outside of the US.

10% is not that little -- it is about 31.8 ml people,after all. What is it like in Europe?


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:12
Member (2003)
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Good comments Sep 30, 2013

Sarai Pahla wrote:

Edward Potter wrote:
This article only mentions in passing that some of those languages with many native speakers are found in weaker economies.


Irrespective of the economy, I believe it is more important that languages, like Bengali for example, are spoken in a very limited and well-defined geographical area and by a generally ethnically homogeneous group in areas that the average American is unlikely to visit. I assume they don't mention Chinese but there are probably far less Cantonese or Mandarin students than French students, even though Chinese is spoken in several countries throughout the world and knowledge of it would be beneficial for business as well. The article also seems to define "Western Languages" as languages spoken in "Western Europe", which I think is a little silly.

I do take your point, however, that Bengali-speakers are likely to understand and communicate in English, while the reverse is not necessarily true. I also agree that the article doesn't really make a great argument for learning other languages!


Nice comments, Sarai. Although the article was written coherently and without spelling errors, it was rather superficial. Apparently the point of the article is that Americans should study certain languages for some sort of higher good. Should Americans be required to study these languages? Who would get to select them?

You are right that Bengali speakers are not likely to communicate in English, however they may be more likely to study it in the future. English (and certain other languages) are simply of greater interest if your purpose is to communicate across borders.

And yes, the article does not make a great argument for learning other languages..


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Only about 10 percent of native-born Americans speak a language other than English.

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