Chinese language presence in US increasing

Updated: 2012-02-13 16:28

By David Lariviere (

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NEW YORK – Like a good academic person should do, Dr Jean Adilifu of the Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Brooklyn, New York, did her homework before responding to questions relating to the recently released China Daily/Gallup poll.

Speaking to a colleague the night before, the assistant principal for foreign languages for the school that requires all its sixth graders to take Chinese had her data at her fingertips. “Spanish is the No 1 foreign language offered in the schools across the country, French is second and Chinese is third – but growing exponentially,” Adilifu added.

The results of a survey of 2,007 Americans and 250 opinion leaders, conducted last December, was a bit different when people were asked, “If you were given a chance to learn a new foreign language, which language would you rather learn?” Only four choices – Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic – were given as well as “none of the above”.

Not surprisingly, Spanish was the easy winner with 58 percent but Chinese placed second at 15 percent. Arabic was third with 11 percent and Japanese totaled 10 percent.

This is consistent with the US Census data of 2010 which showed English as the top spoken language in the US followed by Spanish and Chinese as the third.