Rassias on Foreign Language Study

Professor Emeritus of French John Rassias, writing in the latest Vox (one of the College’s many publicity outlets) explains that American students are more ignorant of foreign language and geography than ever before. He blames American arrogance and the “melting pot” for the decline in language ability:

There are historic reasons for our poor performance in language acquisition. We have been raised to believe that proficiency in other languages is unnecessary, that others will speak to us in our language. We live under the erroneous assumption that English is spoken throughout the world. Combine these with the “melting pot” syndrome — still prevalent in 1978 — of assimilation at all costs, which discouraged pride in or knowledge of different ethnicities, and it’s not hard to account for the problems we found.

As it happens, much of the world does speak English. Large parts the world does speak English as a first language–508 million people, in fact. And according to Newsweek, English is far and away the world’s dominant language:

Within a decade, 2 billion people will be studying English and about half the world?some 3 billion people?will speak it, according to a recent report from the British Council…In Asia alone, the number of English-users has topped 350 million?roughly the combined populations of the United States, Britain and Canada. There are more Chinese children studying English?about 100 million?than there are Britons.

Rassias also suggested that our language skills are declining even as we are gain “pride in or knowledge of different ethnicities.” If this is the case, could it not be argued that our obsessive cultural sensitivity is the reason for the deficiency?