Since foreign languages have occupied only a modest place in American high schools and colleges, this country has not produced many students who possess useful competence in a foreign language. The American Council of Education (ACE) reports that only 5% of US college graduates have meaningful proficiency in a second language. In recent years, several prominent groups and commissions have called this lack of foreign language competency a grave danger for the United States. The Commission on Foreign Languages and International Studies, appointed by President Carter, was the first group that focused the attention of the general public on this issue. Its report, Strength Through Wisdom, published in 1979, strongly urged the study of foreign languages primarily for reasons of national security. Other, more recent reports have called for more foreign language study as part of a general renewal of American education, especially to improve this country's economic competitiveness. Language educators themselves, on the other hand, have continued to stress also the intrinsic benefits of foreign language learning, the broadening of one's horizon, the sharpening of one's awareness of language in general, including one's native language, the personal, intellectual, and emotional growth and the increase in adaptability and flexibility associated with foreign language study. But since utilitarian arguments are more convincing to most people, let us look at pragmatic reasons that argue for the study of foreign languages and then present some thoughts on how better skills might be achieved.



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