North Texas Daily

The truth behind language barriers in America

The truth behind language barriers in America

The truth behind language barriers in America
October 27
12:00 2021

It’s happened to all of us. You’re filling out a resume and it asks if you speak any languages other than English. Sure you took Spanish in middle school and high school, but how much do you actually remember? Did anybody really pay attention in that class? For most students, it was simply a requirement to get a diploma and nothing more. The reality is there are opportunities and incentives for those who speak multiple languages. And yet, it is one many do not take advantage of.

While Spanish is the most common language chosen in high school, other languages offered include German, French and American Sign Language. Some high schools require students to study a second language and others only offer them as electives. This is likely the reason only 20 percent of students learn another language at the K-12 level. It seems as though even if it were required, which is the case for some schools, students would not pay any mind to the benefits.

As of 2015, there were about 630,000 job postings aimed at bilingual workers in the U.S, according to NBC News. That number had more than doubled from five years prior at 240,000. The growth really doesn’t come as a surprise when you stop and think about how many ethnicities and languages are found in our country. There are communities such as Los Angeles’ Chinatown as well as New York’s Little Italy that best represent the melting pot that is the U.S. and how we embrace other cultures.

English is known for being the most spoken language in the world with about 1.1 billion speakers. Whether through conversation or via the internet, almost everybody knows how to speak English nowadays. Interestingly enough, there are 753 million non-native speakers compared to 379 million native speakers. Why then are Americans so uninterested in speaking other languages? Perhaps the answer stems from the idea that the majority of people already speak their native tongue, so there is no real reason to learn anything else. It’s the American thing to do.

Only about 18 percent of people speak a second language in the U.S. This data may be misleading because it does not specify whether these Americans were originally citizens of another country. Nonetheless, when compared to the 53 percent of Europeans who are bilingual, it becomes evident there is simply a lack of interest from Americans. One explanation clarifies that after World War I, there were Americans who did not want outsiders to communicate with them. In addition, they did not want their children learning anything the “enemy” may be speaking. Patriotism was at an all-time high and given the power of the American forces, there was no reason to deter from these beliefs.

Whether it be due to a lack of interest or personal beliefs, there is no doubt that the number of bilingual speakers in America will continue to stay low. There are benefits to be reaped from being able to speak another language if one is open to learning. Hopefully one day, America will learn to appreciate the one attribute that is possible of connecting us all.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Rolando Medina

Rolando Medina

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