An excellent article on why our Intelligence agencies suck.
I would add, one other reason why Americans don’t learn foreign languages is that we just dont have to. English, like it or not, has become the lingua franca of the world….the irony of that statement is not lost on me. Its not necessairly because of cultural hegemony either, as the trend was underway well before the end of WWII . The EU (then the EC) picked English as their working language even before the UK joined. Likewise, the European Central bank uses english, even though the UK isn’t part of the Euro.
The only place in Europe I ever had difficulty finding english speakers was in Paris (go figure). I even had cab drivers in Taiwan know enough english to get the job done.
Switzerland recently mandated that all schools teach english as the primary second language (you used to be able to pick French, German, or Italian). It just makes good sense to learn english as a second language no matter what your primary language is.
English is spoken as a primary or working/official language by countries on every continent: US, Canada, Australia, UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore, Guyana, Nigeria, Belize, Botswana, Pakistan, Bahamas, Jamaica, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, and the Philippines. There are more minor ones I’m sure.
I wonder if english has hit the tipping point where it has momentum beyond the US and the UK. Currently, if you have most any sort of international conference, its going to be in english, even if there are no english speaking countries in attendance. If a German, a dutchman and an Italian get together, they are going to speak english….and you’ll probably get a punchline too.
In conclusion, there’s a good reason why we don’t learn foreign languages. The time is better spent studying something else.