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MLA Shows that West European LCTLs Differ in Size

December 14, 2010

Last week, the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) published Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education.  Despite its less than exciting name, the report actually offered an interesting glimpse into enrollments in foreign language classes at American two and four year colleges, compared to four years ago.  Overall, enrollments have increased by 6.6% across the U.S. and 26.7% in the state of Indiana between 2006 and 2009.  In addition, students are choosing to take a wider range of languages.  Over the same period, while Spanish, French, and German grew at a rate of 5.1%, 4.8%, and 2.2% respectfully, Portuguese grew at over ten percent and “other” (i.e. not one of the top 15 languages) grew at a rate of 20.8%.

The report also showed that Indiana University is often a leader in West European Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs).  LCTLs have traditionally been defined as any foreign language other than Spanish, French, and German, and IU currently offers nine West European LCTLs (Welsh will be taught in the spring 2010).  As the below table shows, while some of these LCTLs have rather large enrollments, very few Americans study the language some of the other languages.

West European LCTLs Offered at IU

National Rank (2009) National Enrollments Percent Change
2002 2006 2009 2002-06 2006-09
Italian 4 63,899 78,368 80,752 22.6 3.0
Portuguese 13 8,385 10,267 11,371 22.4 10.4
Greek, Modern 19 804 1,294 2,018 60.9 56.0
Norwegian 25 777 782 832 0.6 6.4
Dutch 36 375 445 530 18.7 19.1
Yiddish 46 438 969 336 121.2 -65.3
Finnish 71 150 116 -22.7
Catalan 73 64 110 71.9
Welsh 120 83 33 -60.2

Source:  Modern Language Association of America

In some of these “rarely taught languages,” IU in fact trains a large proportion of Americans.  For instance, more than a quarter of all students enrolled in Dutch courses in 2009 were in classes at Indiana University.  In addition, IU offers a wide range of options for language training, as at least three levels of all of these languages are offered at IU, except Catalan and Welsh.  In addition, WEST helps organize summer courses where students from across North America come to Bloomington for intensive training.  This summer we will be sponsoring first and second year Dutch, as well as introducing elementary Modern Greek.  Through all of these options, IU remains a leader in teaching West European languages.

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