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Most Commonly-Taught Languages in the U.S.

Name the languages, other than English, that are the most commonly taught in American universities and grade schools (K-12).
Quiz by Macaco
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First submittedJuly 20, 2014
Last updatedJuly 9, 2019
Times taken16,023
Rating4.24
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%
University
50.2
Spanish
12.4
French
7.6
American Sign Language
5.7
German
4.9
Japanese
4.0
Italian
3.7
Chinese
2.2
Arabic
1.8
Latin
1.4
Russian
0.9
Ancient Greek
0.7
Portuguese
0.7
Biblical Hebrew
0.4
Modern Hebrew
%
K-12
72.1
Spanish
14.1
French
4.4
German
2.3
Latin
0.82
Japanese
0.73
Italian
0.67
Chinese
0.46
American Sign Language
0.14
Russian
+6
level 54
Aug 16, 2017
I racked my brain to think of major immigrant groups.. forgot european jews!
+7
level 54
Aug 5, 2019
European Jews spoke either Yiddish or their country's language, not Modern Hebrew which was created by Zionists adding new words to the ancient biblical language in order to make Israel look like a nation with its own language.
+6
level 53
Aug 5, 2019
Wow...that reads pretty anti-semitic. Not sure if you meant it that way, but it reads that way.
+1
level 51
Aug 5, 2019
goodbye
+2
level 59
Aug 5, 2019
Actually, it was because the only language all the different ethnic groups of Jews had in common was Hebrew, but it didn't have enough modern words to function as a modern language, so they filled in the blanks in order to avoid privileging one particular group of Jews over another. Also you're obviously an antisemite.
+3
level 46
Aug 5, 2019
wow, anti-semite much?
+3
level 61
Aug 5, 2019
I wonder how ADX31 feels about Israel...
+2
level 57
Aug 6, 2019
Yuck, ADX31. Your anger is only outdone by your ignorance.
+2
level 77
Aug 7, 2019
The revival of the dead language of Hebrew by Israel, so that it is now a fully living language and native tongue of millions of people, is one of the most remarkable feats in linguistic history. They had considered making English, Russian, Yiddish or Arabic the official national language of the new nation-state, created in similar fashion to any other modern nation-state, but as supermusic pointed out they didn't want to privilege one group over another and there wasn't any language spoken by all of the inhabitants of the new state.
+23
level 66
Jul 9, 2019
Not sure how ASL qualifies as a "foreign" language, given the presence of the word "American" in its name.
+5
level ∞
Jul 9, 2019
Fixed
+2
level 75
Jul 9, 2019
Awesome, thank you.
+3
level 79
Jul 10, 2019
Now go edit the source Wikipedia page to remove the word "foreign" from the title ;)
+2
level 75
Jul 10, 2019
Could 'sign' not be accepted?
+2
level 71
Jul 13, 2019
That’s like saying that we should be allowed to refer to English as “gli” – the word “sign” randomly snipped out of the proper name “American Sign Language” is just as meaningless. Obviously, the single word “sign” could refer to a great many things, from an individual word in ASL to a street sign, or maybe even a plague of locusts (as in “a sign from God”). Even just “Sign Language” is not specific enough, as there are many signed languages in use all over the world that vary depending upon the country or region (and they’re not mutually intelligible) – just like with spoken languages. “Sign” as an alternative name for any signed language is not used academically nor colloquially, and in fact could be interpreted as disrespectful and dismissive. Rather than asking JetPunk to lower its standards down to your current (lack of) understanding, why not take the opportunity to expand your knowledge? Isn’t that ultimately why we’re all here?
+3
level 58
Aug 5, 2019
@samiamco while I understand your point, within the context of this quiz it's pretty obvious what "sign" refers to, being that it is a quiz about languages taught in the states. Do I like the fact that it goes a way to reinforcing the misconception that there is only one sign language? Not especially. But it's simply not that deep
+2
level 66
Jul 10, 2019
missed sign language, both versions of hebrew and ancient greek
+3
level 53
Jul 10, 2019
American Sign Language hahahahahahahahaha^^ hilarious^^ [not meant as an insult to deaf people just funny to see it next to spoken languages]
+9
level 77
Jul 10, 2019
why?
+11
level 77
Jul 10, 2019
Are you one of those people who thinks that sign languages are just regular languages adapted to finger spelling?
+10
level 82
Jul 10, 2019
I think it is great to be included just to remind people in general that you don't have to be able to hear and speak to have a language. I also didn't think of sign language at all.
+2
level 77
Jul 10, 2019
I took Spanish in both high school and at university. I signed up for Japanese in high school but the class was cancelled due to lack of interest.
+2
level 62
Aug 5, 2019
Aw. Japanese was my daughter's favourite subject at high school.
+3
level 55
Aug 5, 2019
wish my school had offered that
+2
level 62
Jul 10, 2019
We had three options: Spanish, French or German
+3
level 62
Aug 5, 2019
In my local high school in New Zealand it's Maori, Chinese, Japanese, and German. Other schools here might offer French or Spanish, or occasionally Latin, Korean or Samoan.
+1
level 60
Aug 5, 2019
We had Spanish, French, and Latin
+1
level 41
Jul 11, 2019
Students at my school had to learn Indonesian.
+1
level 41
Jul 11, 2019
To be exact Bahasa Indonesian, but they got the language and change it slightly from Bahasa Malay
+1
level 64
Jul 11, 2019
Are they really that similar? I studied Bahasa Indonesia but when I visited Malaysia I had a hard time understanding anybody.
+1
level 73
Jul 12, 2019
It's generally thought to be one language. But I don't know enough to say myself how close they actually are.
+2
level 50
Jul 11, 2019
Fifteen to twenty years ago, my Chinese teachers would brag about how common it was to study Chinese in the USA. I tried to explain to my fellow students (generally Japanese or Korean) that that was actually not true, but nobody believed me.
+3
level 62
Jul 12, 2019
One of these is not like the rest.
+3
level 71
Jul 13, 2019
Wait, lemme guess – you’re talking about Russian because it’s the only Slavic language on the list, right? Because surely you didn’t mean to point out any other of these full and rich languages with a disparaging quip.
+2
level 56
Aug 5, 2019
Hmm... let me guess which one you're referring to...
+1
level 59
Aug 5, 2019
It's strange how Latin is studied more in grade school than in university. Considering that biologists, doctors and historians all need Latin to some extent, I was expecting to see it higher at universities.
+2
level 61
Aug 5, 2019
Many religious schools require all their students to take Latin. Catholic schools in particular, but I know people who went to Evangelical schools who had to do it as well.
+2
level 53
Aug 5, 2019
It was pretty obvious once the answers came up, but there was no way I was getting ASL.
+1
level 77
Aug 5, 2019
In the years I spent traveling around Europe I decided that the most useful languages to know for doing the same are:

1. Russian
2. Italian
3. Spanish
4. German
5. Serbian
6. Polish
7. French
8. Romanian
9. Greek
10. Swedish
+1
level 77
Aug 5, 2019
Turkish might be more valuable than Swedish. And possibly Ukrainian. This is assuming that you already speak English.
+1
level 61
Aug 5, 2019
When you say "useful," do you mean that you need to know these languages more than others because they are most prevalent where people don't speak English? I guess what I mean is that I read this to say that Russian is most useful because it prevails in lots of places where people don't speak English but Dutch and Finnish are less useful because most people in those countries speak English. Is that more or less correct?
+1
level 77
Aug 5, 2019
yes exactly. There are very large numbers of people in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other East European countries who do not speak English but who speak Russian. There are also a lot of people in Italy, Romania, etc who speak Italian but not English, and many people in Spain who do not speak English. German will help you out in several countries even though the majority of people in Germany also speak some English. Serbian will be of use in the Balkans. I was also considering what Natascha posted below: if you know some Russian you will be able to at least read Cyrillic and discern meaning from many Slavic languages. If you know Italian or Spanish or French you can make sense of a lot of written Portuguese, Romanian, and so on.

But, yes, the main reason I ranked Russian #1 is that there are many very large very populous countries with a lot of people who understand Russian but not English.
+1
level 77
Aug 5, 2019
I was also thinking about second languages. Like, many Germans speak English... but there are a lot of people in Poland who don't speak English but who do speak German.
+1
level 50
Aug 5, 2019
If you speak one Romanic language, you can easily read others. I speak fluent French, so understanding Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and even Romanian is relatively easy. You can do with one of 2, 3,7,8 If you speak one Slavic language, others are relatively easy. Slovak, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech are pretty similar. My Slovakian and Polish colleagues at work can talk to each other in their own language and the other person will understand, same with Slovak and Czech.
+1
level 58
Aug 5, 2019
I had never considered learning Slovak before, but if it could open the door to both Polish speakers and Czech speakers as well as Slovak speakers themselves, then it's definitely next on my list
+1
level 34
Aug 5, 2019
I know a decent amount of Spanish, and because of it i can read portugese and italian
+1
level 77
Aug 9, 2019
I know enough Spanish to have a conversation with a 5 year old in addition to having some very very rudimentary knowledge of Latin, Greek, French, German and Polish and the ability to sound out words written in Russian Cyrillic. All of the above made it possible to puzzle out the meanings of signs, restaurant menus, and even newspapers in virtually every country in Europe. There are many similarities between all of these languages.
+2
level 60
Aug 5, 2019
Knowing Russian (or any other Slavic language, but especially Russian) makes it easy to get around any Slavic country, as a lot of basic words are similar, and most former communist countries have tons of older people who learned Russian in school.
+2
level 68
Aug 5, 2019
I feel like more schools should be offering Chinese at this point. It's probably the most useful foreign language for Americans at this point, other than maybe Spanish.
+1
level 34
Aug 5, 2019
spanish is still far and away the most useful for the US in general, and it also allows you to somewhat be able to understand italian, portugese, and french.
+1
level 77
Aug 5, 2019
Depends a lot on what career field you want to go into and where you live or wish to live. If you want to be a teacher, social worker, politician, or manage a construction company in Texas, Spanish would be extremely valuable. If you want to be an engineer you're better off studying Japanese, Chinese, or German.
+1
level 32
Aug 5, 2019
What about the languages that are actually learnt? Because I'm from Spain and every time I meet an American they seem to only know how to say piñata and count til cuatro. Makes me wonder about the quality of their education system.
+1
level 32
Aug 5, 2019
The world lingua franca is generally English and Americans almost have a mindset like the US is the only country that exists. There is really no cultural pressure for people to learn other languages and for schools to actually try to make people fluent in them. You won't learn a language with the conventional American school system.
+1
level 61
Aug 6, 2019
Most Americans I know are at least conversational in a second language, but I also went to very good schools and have a white-collar career, so my experience is probably not the norm. I echo alejour's sentiment in part: learning a second language is not as pressing for Americans as it is for people in other parts of the world because English is the most common language across the world (I don't mean by sheer number of speakers. I mean that you can find it everywhere). If you're an American tourist in any major global city, you can find English speakers. If you're a Swede who only speaks Swedish, you are unlikely to find your language outside your country, which is a big problem. In my experience, Americans are much better at second languages than the English or Australians though.
+1
level 77
Aug 7, 2019
There are millions of Americans who are very fluent in Spanish. There are also millions of Americans who took it for three years in high school because they had to, crammed the night before for every test, and promptly forgot everything they had learned the following year if not the following week, because if you only speak English you can get by perfectly fine and there's nothing ignorant or chauvunistic about that statement it's just factual if you live in the United States.