For most Americans, learning a second language occurs in school, however a new survey found that 70% of Americans regret letting their foreign language skills slip. An online educational platform named Preply recently surveyed over 1,000 people to better understand their experiences and opinions about studying foreign languages.
Humans speak and interact with people from other countries daily and English is widely accepted around the world, so why do so few Americans speak a foreign language? The survey from Preply found that 3 in 10 Americans only learned a foreign language because it was required of them to do so during their education and schooling. On top of that less than 10% actually studied a foreign language to complete proficiency. Let us examine some more of the takeaways from the Preply survey.
The first part of the survey asked Americans about how they learned second languages. For most of the respondents, they said that they learned in high school. Of those who learned a second language almost 60% said they learned at school. Almost 20% said they learned their foreign language from a family member and only a small percentage said they learned from an app based educational program.
The next part of the survey asked why Americans decided to learn a second language. Listed below are the most popular responses from the survey:
1. I learned a foreign language because I was required to for my education (31%).
2. I learned a foreign language to learn more about other cultures and connect with other people (23%). 3. I learned a foreign language for other reasons (15%).
4. I learned a foreign language to enhance travel (14%).
5. I learned a foreign language for my career (10%).
6. I learned a foreign language because it’s a practical skill (7%).
Preply also asked surveyed respondents about the most popular foreign language that were studied. Listed below is that breakdown as well:
1. The foreign language I studied was Spanish (46%).
2. The foreign language I studied was French (27%).
3. The foreign language I studied was German (8%).
4. The foreign language I studied was Italian (4%).
5. The foreign language I studied was Chinese (2%).
Preply also found that the average time spent learning a foreign language was over 2.5 years for the average respondent. The average age that one learns a foreign language is typically 17 years old.
One of the major takeaways from the foreign language survey is that majority of American’s don’t retain the language they learn. Why you might ask? Well, there are several major reasons for why a foreign language is not retained after learning. The first and probably most obvious reason is that lack of importance placed on learning a second language for many American citizens. Another reason is that many students stop studying the language after they initially learn the second language. The survey found that 27% of those who learned a foreign language, have not studied it in the past decade. Another 27% reported that they forgot most of what they learned within a year of learning the language. Many students live with the regret of letting their language skills slip. The survey found that over 70% of surveyed respondents said they regretted letting their second language skills fall off.
Preply next asked surveyed respondents how they would describe their current ability to speak a second language. Listed below are the most common responses:
1. My current speaking ability with my second language is that I can understand basic phrases (62%).
2. My current speaking ability with my second language is that I can communicate in most social situations (18%).
3. I can’t currently understand anything of the foreign language I once learned (10%).
4. My current speaking ability with my second language is that I can understand most things (6%).
5. I am currently fluent in the foreign language I’ve previously learned (4%).
One of the most eye-popping stats from the section above is that only 4% of people who have learned second language are currently fluent in that language. To get to the bottom of why Americans have let their foreign language skills slip off, Preply asked surveyed respondents why they stopped studying the language that they once learned.
Listed below are the most common reasons why Americans stopped studying a second language:
1. I stopped studying a second language because I fulfilled a requirement with my schooling.
2. I stopped studying a second language because I didn’t have the opportunity to practice the language on a regular basis (21%).
3. I stopped studying a second language because I didn’t feel that I needed the speak the language in real life (14%).
4. I stopped studying a second language because the language itself became too difficult (12%).
5. I stopped studying a second language because I got bored with speaking the language (10%).
So why is American lagging so far behind other countries when it comes to speaking and learning a second language? For one many colleges and universities in America don’t require learning a second language a requirement for graduation. On top of that many second education curriculums are cutting foreign language programs all together.
The next part of the survey examined why some Americans pass on learning a foreign language altogether. Of those who never learned a second language, over 7 in 10 say they regret not taking the time to learn a second language. As it turns out most Americans have had the opportunity to learn a second language in a formalized educational setting, but simply choose not to do so. Surveyed respondents were directly asked why they didn’t want to learn a second language.
Listed below are the top responses:
1. I decided not to learn a second language simply because most people speak English (50%).
2. Other (22%).
3. I’m too busy to learn a second language (16%).
4. I decided not to learn a second language because most other languages are not useful in real life (12%).
The full results from the Preply survey can be seen in the infographic below.
Infographic by: preply