Today, with the globalization of business, it is more relevant than ever to be able to communicate with citizens of other nations, people whose first language is something other than English. And that is not the only need for Americans to learn to speak a second language.
For a long time, when there was less international trade and other international connectedness in business, there was less call for learning a foreign language. Indeed, the schools of yesteryear often urged their students to learn Latin at their first, and often only, foreign language. Whatever Latin's attributes, it has no use in communication with nationals of other lands. A dead language, it could not even serve as a lingua franca to facilitate communication between American businesspeople and their foreign counterparts.
Fortunately for Americans, many other nations' schools teach their students to speak English, but it's not only one-side but positively egocentric to expect individuals from other nations to speak English if they want to engage in business with Americans.
Two factors in the 21st century have put a different spin on things: First, there is the increased globalization of business. Whether we are buying raw materials from overseas or selling finished products to retailers or end users overseas, American businesspeople find themselves in ever-increasing contact with people for whom English is, at best, a second language , and often not an option at all. The second factor is the number of immigrants to the U.S. While a good number of these are Latinos, many are from countries where other languages are spoken. These new Americans might be your customers or clients, your employee, or in the employ of your suppliers. In any case, it surely helps if you can communicate with them!
Learning at least one foreign language is vital in today's world of commerce. And it will be even more important tomorrow.
A March 2012 report by Council on Foreign Relation's Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security states that students in American schools "spend fewer years studying a more limited range of foreign languages than students in most other wealthy countries, and just 1.4 percent of them study abroad, mostly in Europe. The report goes on to woefully inform us that "By almost every measure, U.S schools are failing to provide the kind of education our society will need to ensure American leadership in the twenty-first century."
The report further tells us that "It is critical that children in the United States be prepared for futures in a globalized world. They must acquire foreign languages and learn about the world."
The report plainly equates education with opportunity and therefore with the ability to achieve one's dreams. This is true whether you are an employer or an employee. The same report informs us that "Despite sustained unemployment, employers are finding it difficult to hire Americans with necessary skills." One of those needed skills is the ability to speak a second language.
We need to start now both to learn, ourselves, a second language relevant to our businesses and to see that American students of today are better educated not only across the board but, most especially, as regards learning a second language.