With President George W. Bush's unprecedented call in January 2006 to expand the foreign language capacity of the United States, it has become clear that languages other than English (LOE) are of great interest to public policy in the United States. Yet the language capacity of the United States remains poorly documented. The 2000 General Social Survey (GSS) included new questions concerning the languages spoken by 1,398 respondents. Although about one quarter (26%) of respondents to this GSS sample claimed they could speak another language, only 10% overall said they could speak it very well. Those respondents who speak a foreign language were typically aged 25–44, graduate school educated, self‐identified as being of a race other than White, and living in large metropolitan cities and on the coasts. Spanish (50%), French (15%), and German (9%) were the most common languages spoken by the survey respondents. Whereas 67% of respondents who learned the language at home as a child said they could speak it very well, only 10% of those who learned it in school or elsewhere did speak it very well. As expected, LOE speakers gave significantly more responses revealing support of LOE and policies favorable to immigration, with LOE‐home speakers being more positive about these issues than LOE speakers who learned the language at school. These findings can help to inform national policy debates concerning how best to address the language needs of the United States.
Robinson, John P., William P. Rivers, and Richard D. Brecht. 2006. "Speaking Foreign Languages in the United States: Correlates, Trends, and Possible Consequences." The Modern Language Journal (November). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2006.00462.x