One change in US education could dramatically improve America’s relationship with the world

There are plenty of reasons why Americans should be learning a second language—and almost as many reasons why they’re not.

About 60 million Americans speak a language other than English at home, according to the 2015 U.S. census—almost the size of the UK’s entire population. But the same nation that once saw knowledge of foreign languages as essential for global power has failed to prioritize it in recent years, especially at the elementary-school level.

This not only has implications for Americans abroad, but also at home. Research has shown bilingualism can have far-reaching positive effects on people’s personal and professional lives.

Employers look to hire people with language skills “even if they think they don’t need them,” says Rebecca Callahan, author of The Bilingual Advantage and an associate professor of bilingual and bicultural education at the University of Texas at Austin. “At the same time, there’s been a devaluing of our educational system and the importance of foreign language.”

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