Most widely spoken foreign languages in Memphis, Tennessee: Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Germany, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Russian, Tagalog, Italian

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Here's an article about the relative popularity of French vs. Chinese in schools in Memphis (or more specifically Shelby County), a somewhat typical piece where French is said to be losing ground compared to Chinese. The article has provided us with the following numbers on the number of speakers per language:

1. Spanish - 27,385 speakers (3.3%)
2. French - 3,890 (0.46%)
3. Vietnamese - 3,080 (0.37%)
4. German - 2,590 (0.31%)
5. Chinese - 1,975 (0.25%)
6. Arabic - 1,604 (0.19%)
7. Korean - 1,095 (0.13%)
8. Russian - 950 (0.11%)
9. Tagalog - 945 (0.11%)
10. Italian - 849 (0.10%)

As always, when deciding which languages to be taught in schools there are a number of factors to consider:

1) Usefulness of the language for the average citizen living in the area
2) Difficulty. Though it really depends on the quality of the teacher and classroom atmosphere, French on the whole takes much less time to learn to fluency than Chinese.
3) Other educational benefits. Learning Spanish and Portuguese is easier after learning French, whereas Chinese isn't directly related to any other major languages one finds in US schools. It provides a bit of help with Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, but not a huge amount.

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