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West European K-12 Language Instruction Decreasing

January 22, 2010

Thursday’s New York Times ran an article about the decreasing number of foreign language teachers in American’s elementary and secondary schools.  One of WEST’s major missions is to support the teaching of West European languages in schools through workshops and grants.  While Spanish, French, and German are still the three most commonly taught languages, the number of French and German teachers significantly decreased in the last ten years.  The percentage of schools across the U.S. offering French decreased from 64% to 46%, while German decreased from 24% to 14% between 1997 and 2008.

In addition, the report indicated that most K-12 foreign language teachers (63% elementary, 73% secondary) had received professional development training in the last year.  This is also an important part of WEST’s outreach activities, as WEST supports multiple workshops a year for K-12 teachers.  In June, WEST will be holding its annual Summer Language Teacher Workshop.  This year’s theme is Seeing Western Europe through the Visual Arts.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 2:40 pm

    With the budget cuts many public school systems are facing, I can’t say this is surprising. The pervasiveness of the English language worldwide means, in this predominantly English-speaking country, foreign language study is less necessity than it is luxury. It’s “easy” to remove from the budget. Can you cut literature and writing? No. Can you cut math? No. They are the building blocks of education. Understanding in those areas are needed to be able to read history, understand moles, and comprehend Newton’s laws. It’s awfully difficult to argue funding foreign language at the expense of English education. It’s an unfortunate and bitter reality administrators, teachers, and students alike face.

    I won’t go so far as to say WEST and other Title VI programs are powerful enough to reverse the decline of foreign language study in K-12 education (in the case, West European languages), but they can certainly help educators ride out the storm. Hopefully when appropriate funding is available, public school administrators will have the widsom to see the enriching value of foreign language education and politicians will realize they don’t actually know anything about education and just let teachers teach.

    PS If we are going to get rid of West European foreign language study, can we package it with No Child Left Behind? Just wondering.

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