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Language studies on the rise

April 2015

¿Habla español? Parlez-vous français? If your college coursework includes a language other than English, you have lots of company.

At U.S. degree-granting colleges and universities, enrollment in courses of languages other than English reached nearly 1.6 million in fall 2013—a 12-percent increase over fall 2002. But course enrollments varied greatly from one language to another.

As the chart shows, Spanish courses were by far the most popular, accounting for more than half of all enrollments in languages other than English. Courses in the other languages making up the “FIGS” group (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) also had large numbers of enrollments. The ability to communicate in these languages is helpful for doing business in Europe.

Courses in FIGS and American Sign Language led enrollment numbers, but enrollment in Arabic courses grew the most. Enrollment in Arabic courses skyrocketed 205 percent, from nearly 11,000 in fall 2002 to more than 32,000 in fall 2013. American Sign Language (80-percent increase) and Chinese courses (79-percent increase) had the next highest growth in enrollment for languages studied.

Also, most of the languages in the chart had some growth in course enrollments between fall 2002 and fall 2013. Enrollment in “other languages” increased about 12 percent during that time. This group comprises more than 200 languages ranging from Arapahoe to Zulu.

These data come from a February 2015 report, “Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2013,”  by the Modern Language Association of America.

Suggested citation:

"Language studies on the rise," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2015.

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