Survey finds Americans fear lack of multilingual skills may cost them high-paying U.S. jobs

In a May 2010 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “An issue that affects our ability to compete and collaborate on the world stage (is) the need to increase the foreign-language fluency and cultural awareness of all our students.” According to a national survey conducted by Wakefield Research and commissioned by Rosetta Stone Inc. Americans share Secretary Duncan’s concern. More than half (58 percent) of Americans fear that high-paying U.S. jobs will be filled by workers from abroad in the next two decades because of the country’s lack of foreign-language skills.

Americans do not consider their lack of foreign-language skills as solely their own challenge; it is also a challenge for the nation. Roughly half of Americans think the lack of foreign-language proficiency has put the U.S. at an economic disadvantage compared to its foreign counterparts. This perception has become a reality. In its Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, released last week, the World Economic Forum finds that the U.S. has become less competitive, falling two positions to fourth place, behind Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore.