Monday, July 19, 2010
Every once in a while one comes across an article on the declining numbers of people studying French and German in the United States, which is fine, but these are usually written with little knowledge or insight into what drives people to study languages, and whether recent trends reflect geopolitical reality or not. They usually start out something like this:
Bob Jones, 14, starts class at 9:30 am every day. He sits down and says to his teacher: Ni hao. Ni zai xiao wo ma? The teacher pulls out a set of flash cards and the class follows along. That's right, Bob Jones is learning Chinese. And it's catching on. Witherton High School once only had 10 Chinese students and now it has 50.Blech.
This one has been written well though. It mentions that French and German are declining a bit but are still next to most popular after Spanish, goes over the fact that it's a bit weird that French is seen as being in decline in spite of the fact of being the common language in so many developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the oddity in how some see German as a dead language in spite of being the most spoken language in the EU and has the largest GDP as a language by far. It also remembers to touch on other linguistic fads of the past such as Russian after Sputnik, and Japanese during the 1980s.
Mind you, the article is not an "OMG I must send to all my friends NOW" type of link, but is a solid example of how these articles should be written.