Language enrollments

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Mon Dec 2 09:13:09 UTC 1996

Thanks to Brian Akers for supporting arguments!

>In a study of 2,700 two- and four-year U.S. colleges the Modern 
>Language Association found students were studying languages in the 
>following numbers:  Spanish - 606,286    French - 205,351    German - 
>96,263    Japanese - 44,723    Italian - 43,760    Chinese - 26,471 
>Russian - 24,729    Arabic - 4,444.  National enrollments for language 
>studies have dropped by 4% overall.
>The most noticeable shifts were in Chinese, which has gained by 36 percent
>since the last survey, and Arabic by 28 percent.  The general trend toward
>Spanish has continued unabated, wooing students away from French and
>German, which have both lost by 28%.  Russian has fallen by a dizzying 45%
>since the end of the Cold War. 

I suspect that such numbers are also part of popular trends and not merely
the result of government policies. The danger is that governments may take
the "Vox populi vox dei" approach to funding and simply forget that the
number of students produced within a given subject is not the only
interesting criterium for investing in a subject. It is my opinion that
South Asia - and particulartly India - for a number of reasons (political,
economical, military and cultural) will be much more important to the global
community in the years to come than what has been the case so far. It is
also my impression that Western governments have not understood this yet, as
exemplified by the message of our former prime minister Ms. Brundtland to
the foremost Norwegian business leaders that India was "out" - they should
go for China and Indonesia/Malaysia. (This is according to inside
information and might be denied by politicos). Inevitably, such attitudes
may hurt Indological studies, but from a political/economic point of view,
they may also hurt "national interest". India is not "out", South Asia as a
whole is on the way "in", one way or the other. A good understanding of
South Asian societies is therefore essential to Western government, and that
should be made clear to them. The Indological community thus has a "public
relations" problem that should be discussed seriously. An exchange of ideas
on this list would, in my opinion, not be a bad thing. 

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

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