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Why learning Chinese might get your kid a job

February 16, 2022

The American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages has a report out,  Making Languages Our Business:  Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers.

It’s especially useful now, when it’s not easy to go there to work or study in China. This might make it seem as if Chinese is not useful, but it is! Note the findings below:

  • 9 out of 10 U.S. employers rely on employees with language skills other than English.
  • 56% say their foreign language demand will increase in the next 5 years.
  • 47% state a need for language skills exclusively for the domestic market.
  • 1 in 3 language-dependent U.S. employers report a language skills gap.
  • 1 in 4 U.S. employers lost business due to a lack of language skills. 

The following paragraphs from the report are most instructive:

Compared to U.S. employers with foreign language needs on the domestic front only, U.S. employers with at least some foreign language needs internationally have more use for all high-demand languages except Spanish. Most notably, this is the case with Chinese (46 percent vs. 20 percent), French (29 percent vs. 14 percent), Japanese (25 percent vs. 8 percent) and German (24 percent vs. 10 percent). Though Spanish has the highest demand overall, there is no significant difference in demand between groups.

Currently, 19 million U.S. working-age adults—about 10 percent of the United States’ overall working-age population—are of limited English proficiency. As a result, foreign language skills on the domestic front are proving essential not just in serving and selling to consumers, but in managing and communicating with employees. A majority of U.S. employers (58 percent) say that their employees use their foreign language skills to communicate both internally with colleagues and externally with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Another 13 percent say they use their foreign language capacity for internal communication, exclusively.

Thanks to Peter B. for bringing it to my attention. He’s a proud father of a Georgia student who is working to graduate high school with the Georgia Seal of Biliteracy and Global Seal of Biliteracy in both Spanish and Mandarin, and enter university with college credits in both languages.

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