Are Americans losing their interest in foreign languages? According to a study by the Modern Language Association, the number of students who learn a language other than English decreased by about 100,000 between 2009 and 2013.
As The Post's Roberto A. Ferdman assessed earlier this month, one of the reasons for the sudden drop could be that in times of economic crises students prioritize "more practical, or at least immediately useful, courses."
Many of those who decided against learning a foreign language might nevertheless regret their decision in the future. Recent studies have shown that the ability to speak languages other than English can boost average wages, and have positive effects on students' brains and cognitive abilities. What doesn't seem "immediately useful" might be highly rewarding later in life.
One excuse for being indecisive about choosing to study a foreign language is that there are so many options. In order to facilitate you the decision-making process, we have prepared an easy seven-step multiple-choice test that shouldn't take longer than one minute to complete.
Are you interested in getting to know more about foreign languages you could potentially learn? Here are the other 10 languages you could have had as a result of this quiz.
French: A trip to Paris would only be one advantage of mastering French. The language is spoken by more than 200 million people worldwide, for instance in some parts of Switzerland and many African countries. Furthermore, research has shown that French speakers earn about $77,000 extra throughout their careers than people who do not speak a foreign language.
German: This central European country has become the economic envy of Europe. If you are able to speak German, you could earn $128,000 extra throughout your career, according to MIT scientist Albert Saiz. At least financially, German is worth twice as much as French and nearly three times as much as Spanish.
Spanish: Given the large number of Spanish-speakers in the U.S., learning the language can be an asset. It is definitely a plus that you would be able to easily apply your skills without having to travel abroad. The downside, however, is that there are quite a lot of people who speak Spanish, which makes it less valuable in the eyes of employers. Speaking Spanish will boost your income less than mastering most other foreign languages.
Arabic: Being able to speak Arabic opens up a vast, varied region to you. However, it does come with its issues: If you want to apply your language skills in practice, you may have to choose a regional version of Arabic (the most widely known one is Egyptian Arabic), or use classical Arabic, which is primarily used by media outlets.
Portuguese: It's among the world's most spoken languages, with over 200 million natives worldwide. You would primarily be able to speak it in Portugal and Brazil, which are both great tourist destinations. Brazil's dominance in South America makes Portuguese a relevant business language for Americans, as well.
Chinese: China's economic rise is undeniable -- and so is the fact that few Americans truly master Chinese. You will also run into fewer problems trying to learn the language than several years ago. The number of colleges that teach Chinese has risen by 110 percent between 1990 and 2013, making the language more accessible. However, learning it can turn out to be quite tough for Americans because many Chinese words sound similar to each other, but have completely different meanings.
Japanese: The Asian giant has lost some of its economic strength in recent years, but its vibrant culture is certainly worth a visit or a longer stay. There are more than 100 million native Japanese speakers worldwide. Learning Japanese can be tough, although there is a trend to use more English loanwords.
Russian: With the end of the Cold War, interest in learning Russian dropped in the United States. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of offered Russian college courses decreased by 30 percent. However, the recent role of Russia in eastern European conflicts shows that being able to speak and write Russian could be an advantage for economics and politics students.
Italian: Italy is among Europe's tourism hotspots, and it has quite a lot to offer: Venice, Rome, Florence, delicious coffee, and great beaches, among many other features. Its economy, however, has suffered recently, which is why many Italians are learning foreign languages themselves to find work abroad. Nevertheless, Italian is not only a language for would-be tourists, but is also widely popular in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where it is the third most spoken one after English and Spanish.
Korean: Korean is increasingly popular in the U.S.: Between 1990 and 2013, the number of American colleges teaching it grew by 208 percent. Korean immigrants seem to have awoken a strong interest in the language which is being spoken by about 80 million worldwide. Learning the language may also help you understand one of the most mysterious countries on earth: North Korea.
Latin: You seem to be really interested in a language nobody really speaks anymore. But there are quite a lot of reasons why you might decide to study it anyway. For instance, if you master Latin, it will be much easier for you to learn other Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French. Another bonus: If you're interested in history, being able to read Latin will enable you to dig into sources few others are able to read.