List of most commonly learned foreign languages in the United States

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The tables below provide a list of foreign languages most frequently taught in American schools and colleges, they reflect the popularity of these languages in terms of the total number of enrolled students in the United States. (Here, a foreign language means any language other than English, and includes American Sign Language.)

Lists[edit]

Below are the top foreign languages studied in public K-12 schools (i.e., primary and secondary schools). The tables correspond to the 18.5% (some 8.9 million) of all K-12 students in the U.S. (about 49 million) who take foreign-language classes.[1]

K-12[edit]

K-12 students (2007-2008)
Rank Language Enrollments Percentage
1 Spanish 6,418,331 72.06%
2 French 1,254,243 14.08%
3 German 395,019 4.43%
4 Latin 205,158 2.30%
5 Japanese 72,845 0.82%
6 Italian 65,058 0.73%
7 Chinese 59,860 0.67%
8 American Sign Language 41,579 0.46%
9 Russian 12,389 0.14%
Others[2] 255,825 2.87%
Total 8,907,201 100%

Colleges and universities[edit]

Below are the top foreign languages studied in American institutions of higher education (i.e., colleges and universities), based on fall 2013 enrollments.[3]

College and university students (2013)
Rank Language Enrollments Percentage
1 Spanish 790,756 50.6%
2 French 197,757 12.7%
3 American Sign Language 109,577 7.0%
4 German 86,700 5.5%
5 Italian 71,285 4.6%
6 Japanese 66,740 4.3%
7 Chinese 61,055 3.9%
8 Arabic 32,286 2.1%
9 Latin 27,192 1.7%
10 Russian 21,962 1.4%
11 Greek, Ancient 12,917 0.8%
12 Hebrew, Biblical 12,551 0.8%
13 Portuguese 12,415 0.8%
14 Korean 12,229 0.8%
15 Hebrew, Modern 6,698 0.4%
Others 40,059 2.6%
Total 1,562,179 100%

List of top five most commonly learned languages by year[edit]

Grades K-12[edit]

Year Languages Source
1 % 2 % 3 % 4 % 5 %
2004-2005 Spanish 72.9 French 15.0 German 4.2 Latin 2.6 Japanese 0.7 [1]
2007-2008 Spanish 72.1 French 14.1 German 4.4 Latin 2.3 Japanese 0.8 [1]

Higher education[edit]

Year Languages Source
1 % 2 % 3 % 4 % 5 %
1960 French 37.9 Spanish 29.7 German 24.2 Russian 5.1 Italian 1.8 [3]
1968 French 34.4 Spanish 32.3 German 19.2 Russian 3.7 Latin 3.0
1980 Spanish 41.0 French 26.9 German 13.7 Italian 3.8 Latin 2.7
1990 Spanish 45.1 French 23.0 German 11.3 Italian 4.2 Japanese 3.9
1995 Spanish 53.2 French 18.0 German 8.5 Japanese 3.9 Italian 3.8
1998 Spanish 55.6 French 17.0 German 7.6 Italian 4.2 Japanese 3.7
2002 Spanish 53.4 French 14.5 German 6.5 Italian 4.6 American Sign 4.4
2006 Spanish 52.2 French 13.1 German 6.0 American Sign 5.1 Italian 5.0
2009 Spanish 51.4 French 12.9 German 5.7 American Sign 5.5 Italian 4.8
2013 Spanish 50.6 French 12.7 American Sign 7.0 German 5.5 Italian 4.6

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Foreign Language Enrollments in K–12 Public Schools" (PDF). American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). February 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Others" includes (in order of quantity) Native languages, Korean, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Hebrew, Polish, Swahili, Turkish.
  3. ^ a b Goldberg, David; Looney, Dennis; Lusin, Natalia (February 2015). "Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2013" (PDF). Modern Language Association. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 

External links[edit]