Saint Ignatius High School Logo

Home
French Awards
Why Study French?
ACTFL Proficiency
Homework
Grading Criteria
AP French Language & Culture
2009 Student Technology Survey
2016 National Language Exams
Grade Distributions 1997-2005
Wireless Computer Cart
Classroom Video Project
FL Study in US High Schools
Languages in US
Francophone Slideshows
Photo Galleries
AP French Literature Links
AP Literature E-Text Project
2002 Fulbright Photo Galleries
1993 Fulbright Photo Gallery
Les Journaux Télévisés
Les Causeries
Débats Littéraires
French Links
Histoire de France (RealVideo)
Histoire de France
French III S1 Oral Finals
French III S2 Oral Finals
French I S1 Oral Finals
French 1 S2 Oral Finals
Spanish I S1 Oral Finals
Spanish I S2 Oral Finals
Spanish II S1 Oral Finals
Spanish II S2 Oral Finals
Spanish Links
Video Contest
Languages of the World (Charts)
1996-2005 Student Tech Surveys
Most Widely Spoken Languages
Arabic Influences in Languages
Arabic Numbers
National AP Language Scores
MAT Articles
www.maturner.com

Follow m_a_turner on Twitter

The World Speaks French

Discover Languages

 

Foreign Language Study in US High Schools

The report “Foreign Language Enrollments in Public Secondary Schools” by Jaime B. Draper and June H. Hicks published by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) in May 2002 shows that in 1900 Latin was the most widely studied foreign language in US high schools (56% of all students and 70% of foreign language students- see tables below).  German was second (14% and 20%) followed French (8% and 11%).  As a result of the First World War, German studies plunged to less than 1% of all students by 1922 making French the second most widely studied foreign language (14% of all students and 28% of FL students) behind Latin (28% and 50%).  By 1960, Spanish had become the most widely studied foreign language (11% of all students and 40% of FL students) followed by French (9% and 32%) and Latin (8% and 28%).  German had rebounded but remained a distant fourth (2% and 6%).

During the 1970s and early 1980s, foreign language studies declined overall.  In 1982, the number of foreign language students fell below 3 million for the first time since 1962.  However, by the year 2000, the number of foreign language students had reached almost 6 million students—nearly double the 1982 low.  Spanish and French are the only languages with over 1 million students.  German is a distant third (with 283,301 students) followed by Latin (177,477 students).

Foreign Language Enrollments in U.S. Public High Schools, 1890-2000 

 

 

Modern FL

Spanish

French

German

Italian

Japanese

Russian

Latin

Total FL

year

HS enroll

Enr

%

Enr

%

Enr

%

Enr

%

Enr

%

Enr

%

Enr

%

Enr

%

Enr

%

1890

202,963

33,089

16.3%

 

 

11,722

5.8%

21,311

10.5%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

70,429

34.7%

103,518

51.0%

1895

350,099

62,685

17.9%

 

 

22,757

6.5%

39,911

11.4%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

153,693

43.9%

216,378

61.8%

1900

519,251

114,765

22.1%

 

 

40,503

7.8%

74,252

14.3%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

262,752

50.6%

377,517

72.7%

1905

609,702

199,153

32.7%

 

 

61,852

10.1%

137,299

22.5%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

341,215

56.0%

540,368

88.6%

1910

915,061

313,890

34.3%

6,406

0.7%

90,591

9.9%

216,869

23.7%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

448,383

49.0%

762,273

83.3%

1915

1,328,984

477,110

35.9%

35,882

2.7%

116,957

8.8%

324,272

24.4%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

495,711

37.3%

972,821

73.2%

1922

2,230,000

611,025

27.4%

252,000

11.3%

345,650

15.5%

13,385

0.6%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

613,250

27.5%

1,224,275

54.9%

1928

3,354,473

845,338

25.2%

315,329

9.4%

469,626

14.0%

60,381

1.8%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

737,984

22.0%

1,583,322

47.2%

1934

5,620,626

1,096,022

19.5%

348,479

6.2%

612,648

10.9%

134,897

2.4%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

899,300

16.0%

1,995,322

35.5%

1948

5,399,452

740,800

13.7%

442,755

8.2%

253,781

4.7%

43,195

0.8%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

 

0.0%

429,174

7.9%

1,169,974

21.7%

1958

7,897,232

1,295,944

16.4%

691,024

8.8%

479,769

6.1%

93,054

1.2%

22,133

0.3%

 

0.0%

4,044

0.1%

617,500

7.8%

1,913,444

24.2%

1959

8,155,573

1,564,883

19.2%

802,266

9.8%

603,733

7.4%

123,581

1.5%

21,118

0.3%

 

0.0%

7,055

0.1%

639,776

7.8%

2,204,659

27.0%

1960

8,649,495

1,687,358

19.5%

933,409

10.8%

744,404

8.6%

150,764

1.7%

20,026

0.2%

 

0.0%

9,722

0.1%

654,670

7.6%

2,342,028

27.1%

1961

9,246,925

2,192,207

23.7%

1,054,730

11.4%

908,802

9.8%

184,820

2.0%

22,277

0.2%

 

0.0%

13,224

0.1%

695,297

7.5%

2,887,504

31.2%

1962

9,891,185

2,391,206

24.2%

1,137,757

11.5%

996,771

10.1%

211,676

2.1%

21,654

0.2%

 

0.0%

15,832

0.2%

702,135

7.1%

3,093,341

31.3%

1963

10,750,081

2,781,737

25.9%

1,336,105

12.4%

1,130,987

10.5%

260,488

2.4%

23,250

0.2%

 

0.0%

21,552

0.2%

680,234

6.3%

3,461,971

32.2%

1964

11,075,343

2,898,665

26.2%

1,362,831

12.3%

1,194,991

10.8%

285,613

2.6%

24,735

0.2%

 

0.0%

20,485

0.2%

590,047

5.3%

3,488,712

31.5%

1965

11,611,197

3,067,613

26.4%

1,426,822

12.3%

1,251,373

10.8%

328,028

2.8%

25,233

0.2%

 

0.0%

26,716

0.2%

591,445

5.1%

3,659,058

31.5%

1968

12,721,352

3,518,413

27.7%

1,698,034

13.3%

1,328,100

10.4%

423,196

3.3%

26,920

0.2%

 

0.0%

24,318

0.2%

371,977

2.9%

3,890,390

30.6%

1970

13,301,883

3,514,053

26.4%

1,810,775

13.6%

1,230,686

9.3%

410,535

3.1%

27,321

0.2%

 

0.0%

20,162

0.2%

265,293

2.0%

3,779,346

28.4%

1974

13,648,906

3,127,336

22.9%

1,678,057

12.3%

977,858

7.2%

392,983

2.9%

40,233

0.3%

 

0.0%

15,148

0.1%

167,165

1.2%

3,294,501

24.1%

1976

13,952,058

3,023,498

21.7%

1,717,023

12.3%

888,351

6.4%

352,690

2.5%

45,587

0.3%

 

0.0%

11,252

0.1%

150,470

1.1%

3,173,968

22.7%

1978

13,941,369

3,048,331

21.9%

1,631,375

11.7%

855,998

6.1%

330,637

2.4%

45,518

0.3%

 

0.0%

8,789

0.1%

151,782

1.1%

3,200,113

23.0%

1982

12,879,254

2,740,198

21.3%

1,562,789

12.1%

857,984

6.7%

266,901

2.1%

44,114

0.3%

 

0.0%

5,702

0.0%

169,580

1.3%

2,909,778

22.6%

1985

12,466,506

3,852,030

30.9%

2,334,404

18.7%

1,133,725

9.1%

312,162

2.5%

47,289

0.4%

 

0.0%

6,405

0.1%

176,841

1.4%

4,028,871

32.3%

1990

11,099,648

4,093,002

36.9%

2,611,367

23.5%

1,089,355

9.8%

295,398

2.7%

40,402

0.4%

24,123

0.2%

16,491

0.1%

163,923

1.5%

4,256,925

38.4%

1994

11,847,469

4,813,031

40.6%

3,219,775

27.2%

1,105,857

9.3%

325,964

2.8%

43,838

0.4%

42,290

0.4%

16,426

0.1%

188,833

1.6%

5,001,864

42.2%

2000

13,457,780

5,720,661

42.5%

4,057,608

30.2%

1,075,421

8.0%

283,301

2.1%

64,098

0.5%

50,884

0.4%

10,612

0.1%

177,477

1.3%

5,898,138

43.8%

Table 1 above from “Foreign Language Enrollments in Public Secondary Schools” by Jaime B. Draper and June H. Hicks published by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) in May 2002

 Percentage of total FL students 1900-2000 by language

The vast majority of US foreign language students are in First or Second Year courses.  Less than half of Second Year students continue on to Third Year classes and about one-third to one-half of Third Year students continue on to Fourth Year classes (see chart below).  Fewer still continue on into Fifth Year or AP courses.

Foreign Language Enrollment Chart 1948-2000 (in thousands)- click to enlarge

Foreign Language Enrollment Chart 1948-2000 (in thousands)

Percentage Change in Foreign Language Enrollment Chart 1976-1990 and 1990-2000- click to enlarge

Percentage Change in Foreign Language Enrollment Chart 1976-1990 and 1990-2000

CHART SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The NCES Common Core of Data (CCD), 1982 through 2000; and American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Foreign Language Enrollments in U.S. Public High Schools, 1890-2000. (This table was prepared April 2002.)

Foreign Language Enrollments by Language and Level of Instruction (Fall 2000)

 

7

8

7 or 8

7-8

I

II

III

IV

V

VI/AP

Unkn

9-12

7-12

% of FL

French

25,359

29,016

140,729

195,104

199,980

143,524

68,570

27,377

5,983

8,468

621,523

1,075,425

1,270,529

18.3%

German

7,410

13,657

28,627

49,694

61,113

44,014

22,836

10,448

1,693

2,237

140,960

283,301

332,995

4.8%

Italian

42

90

14,791

14,923

13,611

8,517

6,197

2,053

687

703

32,330

64,098

79,021

1.1%

Japanese

935

727

1,350

3,012

4,748

2,744

1,087

544

82

0

41,679

50,884

53,896

0.8%

Latin

1,436

2,033

8,596

12,065

43,463

25,395

9,732

3,099

695

1,479

93,584

177,447

189,512

2.7%

Russian

26

284

450

760

1,881

970

464

179

121

16

6,981

10,612

11,372

0.2%

Spanish

80,019

98,775

520,986

699,780

796,930

565,818

234,320

74,309

17,801

40,436

2,327,994

4,057,608

4,757,388

68.7%

SNS

3,209

2,946

7,206

10,152

7,610

5,247

2,421

2,054

985

71

109,163

127,551

137,703

2.0%

Subtotal

118,436

147,528

722,734

985,489

1,129,336

796,229

345,627

120,063

28,047

53,410

3,374,214

5,846,926

6,832,416

98.6%

Afr Lgs

 

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

33

33

33

0.0%

ASL

 

 

52

52

3,805

1,252

338

52

 

 

116

11,635

17,146

0.2%

Arabic

142

3

 

3

2

 

 

 

 

 

574

576

579

0.0%

Czech

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

9

9

0.0%

Chinese

12

 

9

9

124

34

24

27

4

 

1,109

1,322

1,331

0.0%

Cantonese

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

301

301

301

0.0%

Greek

 

 

5

5

94

58

3

 

 

 

675

830

835

0.0%

Haitian

 

 

 

0

62

53

3

 

 

 

 

118

118

0.0%

Hebrew

54

 

57

57

149

157

205

25

23

 

219

778

835

0.0%

Korean

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

202

202

202

0.0%

Nat Amer

34

112

1,963

2,075

54

17

 

 

 

 

2,061

2,132

4,207

0.1%

Polish

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

115

115

115

0.0%

Portuguese

 

 

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

145

145

145

0.0%

Vietnamese

 

 

21

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

21

0.0%

Other

 

 

39,148

39,148

 

 

 

 

 

 

27,475

27,475

66,623

1.0%

Subtotal

242

181

41,189

41,370

4,290

1,571

573

168

27

0

44,553

51,182

92,552

1.3%

TOTAL

118,678

147,709

763,923

1,026,859

1,133,626

797,800

346,200

120,231

28,074

53,410

3,418,767

5,898,108

6,924,968

100.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 7 above from “Foreign Language Enrollments in Public Secondary Schools” by Jaime B. Draper and June H. Hicks published by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) in May 2002. SNS represents Spanish for Native SpeakersAfr Lgs represents African LanguagesASL represents American Sign Language.

Students Continuing on to Fourth Year Classes by Language:

 

French

German

Latin

Spanish

All

IV

40%

46%

38%

32%

35%

Below are the numbers of grade 7-12 students taking the four most common foreign languages in the states with the ten highest 7-12 enrollments.  Spanish is first taken by 61% (PA) to 80% (TX) of FL students and 18% (FL) to 38% (NY) of all students.  French is second with 11% (TX) to 23% (OH) of FL students and 4.5% (FL) to 10.5% (NY) of all students.  German and Latin alternate between third and fourth depending on the state.

2000 State Totals by Languages, Grades 7-12

Post-secondary Foreign Language Enrollments (Undergraduate and Graduate)

 

Spanish French Latin German Others Total
1998  477,086  169,257    25,305    77,375  187,284  936,307
51% 18% 3% 8% 20%  
1995  443,069  174,836    25,070    84,575  174,520  902,070
49% 19% 3% 9% 20%  
1990  400,121  228,106    27,269  114,266  185,958  955,720
42% 24% 3% 12% 17%  

from “Foreign Language Enrollments in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 1998,” by Richard Broad and Elizabeth B. Welles (Modern Language Association (MLA), ADFL Bulletin, Vol. 31 No. 2, Winter 2000)

 

Trends in Foreign Language Enrollment

In “A National Survey of K–12 Foreign Language Education” (The ERIC Review, Vol. 6 Issue 1, Fall 1998, K-12 Foreign Language Education, pages 13-14) Lucinda Branaman, Nancy Rhodes, and Jeanne Rennie highlighted the following results:

bullet Spanish instruction increased significantly—from being included in 68 percent of elementary school foreign language programs in 1987 to 79 percent in 1997 and from 86 percent of secondary school programs in 1987 to 93 percent in 1997. Spanish is currently the most commonly taught foreign language in school.
bullet French was the second most commonly offered language at all school levels, but the number of schools offering French decreased significantly at the elementary level (from 41 percent in 1987 to 27 percent in 1997) and slightly at the secondary level (from 66 percent to 64 percent).
bullet The percentage of secondary school foreign language programs offering advanced placement classes increased significantly—from 12 percent in 1987 to 16 percent in 1997.
bullet The primary goal of most elementary school foreign language programs is to provide introductory exposure to the students. Only 21 percent of the schools offer programs where language proficiency is a goal.

 

Foreign Language Enrollment in Ohio

 

Draper and Hicks’ 2002 ACTFL report shows that Ohio's foreign language enrollment mirrors the national enrollment trends (see tables below).  These data also confirm Branaman, Rhodes, and Rennie’s findings on elementary programs.  While 24% of Ohio Grade 7 and 8 FL students study French, this represents only 4% of total students.

You are visitor number Hit Counter to this page since March 4, 2004

Follow m_a_turner on Twitter

Send comments to MTurner@ignatius.edu