Traditional language programs declining steadily in the US

February 16, 2011

According to a new analysis, undergraduate majors in the Romance languages and German offered in the US have been declining steadily since the early 1970s. From 1970-71 to 2005-06, the proportion of 4-year colleges offering Romance-language majors dropped from 76% to 59%. In the same time period, the proportion of colleges offering majors in German fell from 44% to 27%. The figures do not cover the effects of the recent market downturn. The last year, for example, has seen proposals to cut certain European-language majors at a number of US institutions. The reduction in many traditional language programs is troubling to some humanities advocates. One professor fears that proponents of foreign-language education have focused too much on the purported career benefits of bilingualism -- a line of defence that misses some of the most important values in language education. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)