Language education is the process of teaching/learning a foreign language – in other words, students in language education classes are studying a language other than their first. This could be their second, third, or even fourth language. Language education may take place at any point – in elementary school, high school, university, or even in one’s spare time.
In today’s globalized world, speaking more than one language is a very valuable skill. It allows for communication across national and cultural borders, which significantly broadens business opportunities. For example, an employee may work in the United States for a company headquartered in Japan. It may be beneficial, or even necessary, for the employee to know Japanese. Conversely, in India, the national language is Hindi – but all international business is conducted in English. So, Indian professionals are compelled to learn English in order to function and succeed in the workplace.
Let us delve into the history of language education and its significance in the education, business, and translation spheres.
A Brief History of Language Education
When did humans first start to indulge in language education? The answer is: well, we don’t know for sure, but probably as long as people have been communicating with each other. Annexation and colonization of certain areas helped spread languages across the globe.
The earliest recorded modern language education was the study of Latin in the 17th century. Latin had been the common tongue of Rome and a large portion of Europe for many centuries, but was only studied as a second language once it had been displaced as the lingua franca.
Foreign language education became part of the European school curriculum in the 18th century. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, language education grew in popularity in grammar and postsecondary schools across the world, including America.
With the advent of the internet, it became easier and quicker for students to access foreign language learning materials online. Adults could take online courses after work or on the weekends. Several foreign language teaching aids, such asRosetta Stone, were developed in response to this burgeoning market.
Language Education Today
The landscape of language education has definitely changed over the past few centuries, especially in the United States.
There is no doubt that America has fallen behind the majority of modernized countries when it comes to language education. According to Forbes, as of 2010 only 18% of Americans can speak another language, as compared to 53% of Europeans. However, foreign language education seems to be deficient in many other parts of the world as well.
So why isn’t language education a higher priority?
A big reason why language education is slowly slipping out of school curricula, both in and out of America, is budget restriction. Schools are increasingly financially strapped and may choose to spend money on science and math classes in order to produce college-ready graduates. Although there has been a growth in dual-language programs in the United States over the last decade, they are often times very expensive and, as a result, not available to many students.
But it’s not all bad news and thunderclouds. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is set to conduct a scholarlystudy on the state of foreign language education in the United States in the hopes of determining the importance of and need for investment in this arena. This is the first time in 30 years that a study of this nature is being undertaken – and, fingers crossed, language education will start to receive more attention in American school systems as a result.
How Does This Relate to Translation and Localization?
Translation companies such as Lionbridge rely on top-drawer translators and interpreters in order to succeed. If your company requires marketing or legal materials to be translated into other languages, then you also rely on exceptional translators. No company wants a translation debacle on their hands – it is costly, embarrassing, and unprofessional.
Translators are created and maintained through excellent language education programs. Those who want to pursue a career in the translation industry require access to language education, usually starting at a very young age. Therefore, the onus is not only on the individual, but on education systems.
To learn more about Lionbridge’s best-in-industry translators and what we can do for you, take a look at our website.