I saw a post referencing an article from The Guardian titled, “From J-Lo to Strictly: Why More Students are Learning Spanish”1 which talks about how, although the interest in foreign language learning is decreasing in the United Kingdom, the desire to learn Spanish is the only one on the rise. There is a 17% increase in students taking General Certificate of Secondary Education(GCSE) courses in foreign language.
After reading this, I decided to look to see what the trend was in the United States. In a study reported by the MLA2 from 2009, there has been just a 5% increase in Spanish language course enrollment. And in 2010, only 18% of Americans spoke a language other than English3. That means ANY language, not just Spanish. 5% in three years and 18% total population in any language? That just does not sound very good to me.
“Algo es algo,” dijo el calvo cuando un pelo le salió.
This is a saying I always found funny and true in Spanish. It roughly translates to, “’Something is something,’ said the bald man when he grew a single hair.” I’ve always taken it to mean that even small victories are victories nonetheless. Even though this small increase is to be celebrated, if the rest of the languages taught in schools are decreasing, the likelihood of future students having the opportunity to study them gets smaller and smaller each passing year. In fact, The Guardian article states that several universities have had to close certain languages departments because of the low interest by students.
How can we change the way the United States sees the importance of learning other languages? There may not be a clear answer for that question that everyone can agree with and I am certainly no expert on this subject. The Guardian article does focus on the effects of popular culture and media. It also talks about how that has brought a lot of Spanish speaking artists to the forefront. For instance, the growth of Spanish speaking channels, like Univision, are helping the Latin world be heard. Univision Network was even ranked the #1 network in primetime for the second consecutive year among Adults 18-49 during 2014 July sweeps.4 This awareness is helping change the stereotypes that have been with us for so long, especially in the United States. They show diverse programs to the world focusing on Latin American cultures, of which there are so many things to see.
Even though the stereotyoes will take some time to disappear, I hope people see the Spanish speaking world in a more positive light. We have people with great gifts and talents that can contribute a lot to this wonderful world if given the chance. If this can happen for one culture, why can it not happen for all? We should be open to what all languages and cultures have to say, me included. I don’t mean you must agree with everything or go and learn every language to understand it better (although, how cool would that be?) I just mean appreciate what those that want to be heard have to say. There are so many intelligent people in the world with great ideas, we should open ourselves up a little and listen. As always, there will be those that try to ruin it for all cultures, but if we see them as the exeption and put them aside, we should be able to grow from each other and hopefully one day understand one another.
Looking forward, I do hope the desire to learn from each other will grow as will the want to continue language education. Here is to no more universities having to close down language departments and to the world turning their eyes a little more into bilingualeyes.
1 The Guardian, “From J-Lo to Strictly: Why More Students are Learning Spanish” (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/sep/09/spanish-more-students-learn-gcse-languages-latino-culture)
2 Modern Language Association website (http://www.mla.org/pdf/2009_enrollment_survey.pdf)
3 The Daily Texan Online (http://www.dailytexanonline.com/opinion/2013/10/06/americans-suffer-from-inadequate-foreign-language-education )
4 Univision Corporate Inc. (http://corporate.univision.com/2014/07/univision-is-the-no-1-network-for-the-second-consecutive-july-sweep-ahead-of-abc-cbs-fox-and-nbc-among-both-adults-18-49-and-adults-18-34/)