U.S. students learn Chinese language during the "Open Day - Experience China" event at the Chinese Consulate General in New York, the United States, on May 5, 2017. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
WASHINGTON, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese language courses are now available in primary and secondary schools in Washington D.C. and every U.S. state except South Dakota, ranking the fourth most widely taught foreign language in the country's education system, according to a national survey released Thursday.
The soaring popularity of Chinese language learning across the United States is "remarkable" as one of the most interesting findings of the survey, Dr. Dan Davidson, President of American Councils for International Education which implemented the survey, told Xinhua.
The National K-12 Foreign Language Enrollment Survey Report shows that a total of 10.6 million U.S. students ranging from kindergarten to grade 12 are studying a world language, making up approximately 20 percent of U.S. school children.
Among them, as many as 227,086 students have enrolled in Chinese language courses, falling behind 7. 36 million students in Spanish, 1. 29 million in French and nearly 331,000 in German language courses.
The survey also shows that Spanish is by far the most widely taught language in all 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C.
However, "we found the number of young Americans studying Mandarin for the most part had doubled" from 2009 to 2015 when the survey was conducted, said Davidson, noting that the figure "is probably higher now...and will keep growing".
"Apart from universities, which is up here too, you can see the interest in Mandarin Chinese is growing like no other language. And a lot of its truly grassroots are parents, students, teachers, communities that want Chinese to be there." he told Xinhua in an interview.
He said, "I think it means Americans are very interested in China. They see knowing Mandarin as important for their future."
"It also means there is a lot of demand and a lot of need for good teaching such as teaching materials, teachers' training and what we called the professional development for teachers of Chinese, because it's hard to find 15,000 qualified teachers in future years," he said, adding that the Chinese government has responded well in helping with filling the shortage.
According to the survey, the enrolment rates in foreign language courses vary widely from state to state. More than half of New Jersey's public K-12 students are enrolled in foreign language classes, but in states such as Arizona and Arkansas, the survey estimates that less than 10 percent of students are studying world languages in school.
In U.S. high schools, Romance languages are taught most often, with 46 percent of those classes focusing on Spanish and another 21 percent on French. Chinese, German, and Latin are the only other world languages that account for more than 5 percent of the courses offered to U.S. secondary school students.
As a first-of-its-kind comprehensive study of world language enrolments across the formal U.S. education system, the report is thought to have offered a closer look at language education in the country's primary and secondary schools.