December 31, 2011

2012: The Year Mandarin Chinese Becomes a 'Commonly Taught Language'?


This article is part of a series of year-end posts on Asia Blog written by Asia Society experts and Associate Fellows looking back on noteworthy events in 2011:

In the 1980s and 1990s, in an effort to define the territory of our field, language educators created the idea of the “less commonly taught languages,” or LCTL . What is peculiar about this notion is that it includes just about every single one of the more than 5,000 languages spoken on Planet Earth, with the exception of English and just three other languages: Spanish, French, and German. For many years, these “big three” languages were just about the only choices available to language learners in the U.S., especially at the K-12 level.

According to the latest estimates from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), Chinese language programs at the K-12 level in U.S. schools expanded by more than 200 percent from 2005 to 2008, and that growth shows no signs of slowing down. While in absolute terms, the number of programs and students is still comparatively small compared even to German, if this growth continues to accelerate throughout 2012, it may well be the year when Chinese loses its status as a LCTL and enters the mainstream.

Read the full article at and browse the entire series of Asia-focused 2011 retrospectives at

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