Let’s talk about the HUGE difference between foreign languages in America and in Europe. Many Europeans kids already know two languages by the age of 9, but most American children only know their native language by that age, why? let’s find out.
A foreign language is a “must” in Europe, in America not so much. According to a 2012 report from Eurostat, students begin learning their first foreign language at school between the ages 6 and 9 in most European countries.
And in some countries such as Belgium the learning with their 3 years old. In 2010, over 90% of secondary school and 73% of primary school students in Europe were learning English or some other language in the classroom, according to Pew’s analysis of Eurostat data.
Half of Europeans speak two languages and 25% can even speak three. “When you look at Europe, they are geographically closer to each other, and now with the European Union it is beneficial for those in Europe to know other languages because of the employability within the European Union,” says Matty Abbott, the executive director of the ACTFL.
The U.S. does not have a nationwide foreign-language mandate at any level of education. And even though most high schools offer foreign language classes, a mere 15% of American elementary schools do the same.
Only 25% of American adults self-report speaking a language other than English, according to the 2006 General Social Survey and within that 25%, 89% acquired these skills in the childhood home.
Compared with 7% citing school as their main setting for language acquisition.
But speaking several languages has A LOT of perks besides an obvious personal satisfaction, such as:
A 2013 study published in the medical journal Neurology that looked at 684 patients with dementia found that, on average, bilingual patients developed Alzheimer’s or dementia 4.5 years later than those who only spoke one language.