Apr 13, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

It's not news that US college students lag behind in second-language learning and a recent report indicates that the US may be falling even further behind.

Between 2013 and 2016, the number of US students enrolled in language courses dropped by over 9 percent.

Spanish--once the most popular language of US college students--dropped considerably, as did German, Russian, and Italian. Spanish declined by about 17 percent between 2009 and 2016.

These numbers are disappointing but they may not show the whole picture.  While American students may be passing up traditional favorites like Spanish and German, some nontraditional options are seeing a slight uptick. Korean language instruction has increased, with enrollment up by 65 percent. The actual number though, is low. Just 14,000 students are studying Korean, while over 700,000 study Spanish.

American Sign Language also saw an increase of 16.3 percent.

Language learning has multiple benefits.

In the global economy, knowing multiple languages will only enhance your marketability.

Why are American students falling behind? 

A 2017 article in The Conversation sheds some light. 

Students most likely to become bi- or multilingual are children of immigrants. Many of them lose fluency in their parents' language and opt only for English.

Another reason that contributes to a declining interest in language is low expectations in foreign language teaching. A few years in middle school and high school classrooms isn't enough--students need more, and earlier. 

Another great way to learn? Immersion programs.

There's room for improvement in foreign language instruction for US students.

Learn more about studying world languages.  

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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