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Only few American students learn a foreign language at school. 20% in U.S.
In Europe, this figure rises to 92%. A question of geography… but not only.

However, this figure hides a real contrast between the different States. A study by the non-profit American Councils for International Education found that 51% of New Jersey students learn another language compared to 9% in New Mexico or Arizona.

A very different situation in Europe
In Europe, the situation is very different: more than 90% of pupils learn at least one other language. Very often, they even learn several. This behaviour is completely rational, since the mother tongue of many of them is very little spoken. That’s why 100% of Romanian, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch students get involved. Another peculiarity of European countries is that some speak several languages within a country. In Switzerland, for example, French, German, Italian and Romansh are the four official languages. In Belgium, they are French, German and Dutch. But, says Nikhil Sonnad about Quartz, the country’s historical, societal and political developments have made relations between the various linguistic communities so complex that the “apolitical linguistic solution” today would be… English.

Europeans also share many more borders than Americans. Where the United States has only two borders, one with Canada and the other with Mexico, metropolitan Switzerland, for example, has no less than 4 neighbors.

The place of the English language in the world
Some argue that Shakespeare’s language is so popular that it is, in fact, purely and simply oppressive. Last July in the Guardian, California-based journalist Jacob Mikanowski accused the English language of “taking control of the planet”. We cannot avoid it, it is everywhere: in business language, on the Internet, in air transport.

American students who are not learning a foreign language will have no problem finding a job in our global English-dominated economy. However, they will not develop a critical cultural intelligence, says Ephrat Livni on Quartz: “Learning a foreign language is important for reasons that go beyond raw communication with others. It’s a window into a different world, a way of understanding how others think.”