How is foreign language education where you live? What would you change?
In my country, Portugal, they only start seriously teaching us English "when we are mature enough to learn it"... This has obvious consequences. I wish they would start earlier, as little children.
In highschool foreign languages are not given much importance. In my school there are only two options: either English or Spanish. There are lots of schools which offer French and German too (especially music conservatories), and if you're lucky you can get Mandarin.
I wish there was more variety and that there was more passion for language learning.
This is why I love Duolingo so much. It gives me the opportunity to compensate for a not so great language education in my country.
How are things where you live and what would you like to change?
I live in South Africa. We are generally taught English, Afrikaans and an African language relevant to the province. I live in the Eastern Cape, so we were taught basic Xhosa periodically throughout school.
At my current university, only English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, French and Dutch are taught (some even have separate courses for beginners; as well as fist-language speakers). I would like my university to at least add a Spanish course; although I think that Portuguese, German, Italian, Arabic and Mandarin Chinese courses would also attract many students to enrol and study languages there.
I live in Texas, USA and we need two foreign language credits in high school. My school offers Spanish, French, Latin, and German. The majority of students study Spanish, considering the proximity of Texas to Mexico. Most people dont take learning other languages seriously however, and many dont actively try to learn it outside of the classroom. If i could change anything, i think that at least three foreign language credits should be required so that the language hopefully sticks a little more. Many people I know have found that regardless of your profession, learning a language can always come in handy. American schools should be instilling a passion for learning languages into their students, rather than forcing them to see it as an 'obstacle towards receiving graduation credits.'
I went to high school in Kansas in the U.S., not exactly considered a center of anything global or multi-cultural (after all it's smack dab in the middle of a pretty large country), yet I guess I was pretty lucky with the offerings. We could take French or Spanish starting in 7th grade (age about 12) and German or Latin starting two years later (9th grade), for a maximum of six years in either French or Spanish or four of German or Latin. We could also start Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, or Russian in 9th grade, but for that you were bussed to a different school location, so it was a pretty major commitment, but students of those languages had them for two class periods a day. Spanish was the most popular, but French was pretty popular, too.
I took the six years of French. I finished not being able to speak or understand much. Neither the teachers nor we spoke much French in class — something I would definitely change, but it didn't take long at all to be able to speak and understand pretty fluently when I went to France for a language program, so it turned out I'd learned quite a lot, after all.
In college we could chose from Arabic, Chinese, French, German, modern Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, plus biblical Hebrew, ancient Greek, and Latin. I took Spanish and Portuguese. Both were taught almost entirely in those languages from day 1, with the occasional grammar explanation in English, and I learned a huge amount, and fast. Of course, I'm sure I was aided by having already learned French.
I live in Florida, USA, and we are required to take two semesters of a foreign language in high school. Most in my area only offer French and Spanish, but it depends on the school and what teachers are available at the time. I was fortunate and was able to take a year of German to meet those requirements, but the class was discontinued after that year. Some of my friends who only took one semester of German before they pulled it had to take an online class, as you can't take one semester of German and say, one of Spanish. It has to be the same language.
If I could change it, I would push the schools to hire more teachers and offer more languages. I had no interest in French or Spanish, and only took German because it was new and different. I ended up falling in love with it, but I don't know what I would have done if I had to take one of their default languages.
The local college I attend also only offers French or Spanish, though they do occasionally offer American Sign Language. Its frustrating not being able to take anything more than those while pursuing higher education.
I live in UK, where foreign language education is very little and we're generally a great place for monolingualism... the majority of people here know no other languages. I don't know if a school alone can really make you fluent in a language or even close, although it should be a great headstart. I think a second language can be very useful, so I think they should do a bit more in school.
I'm from Germany. English is started in schools very early, between ages six and eight. Even some bilingual kindergartens exist. A second foreign language has to be chosen by grade six or seven, in some types of schools (kinda equivalent to American middle and high school in one). If you want to have the type of end-of-school diploma that allows you to go to any university and study any subject, you need to have learned a second foreign language. The most wide-spread options are French, Latin, and Spanish. In grade eight or nine, you usually get the choice to start a third foreign language. Typical additional options there are Italian, Russian, Ancient Greek, and, close to the respective borders, Dutch, Danish, Polish and Czech. You also have to keep learning at least one foreign language until you finish school.
Universities usually have large amounts of language classes on offer and they are also typically free for students. The uni I went offered courses in at least 15 languages and that was a technical university. A university with a large humanities sector might well offer two or three times that many. Outside unis, the so-called Volkshochschulen (literally, people's high schools/colleges) offer language instruction, usually in as many languages as they can get teachers for. Those courses aren't free, though.
In Germany we have our first foreign language lessons in 3rd grade. Since I live in Southern Germany it was French for me, I believe it's English in other areas. But it's just playful learning, painting and naming the colours by their foreign names, singing songs, saying hello.
In 5th grade it really starts(*). Most schools start with English, but they are some starting with French (especially in the South because of the closeness to France and the French occupation) in my city there was also one starting with Latin. In 7th grade a second language is added for me that was English, for those starting with English, there is a selection between French, Spanish and Latin, maybe something else, but these are the most common ones. I know someone who had Russian as the second foreign language. In 9th grade one can add an optional third foreign language (in my school either Spanish or Latin, I chose neither and decided on a more scientific path). After 10th grade we can opt to only continue studies in one foreign language, but we do have to take at least one to graduate.
() After primary school we have three different schools: Gymnasium(*), Realschule and Hauptschule, depending of how good you were in primary school. They have different degrees and only the Gymnasium qualifies for university studies. I can only speak on the language education on that school. I don't know how it is in a Realschule or Hauptschule.
My school was also a special case since it was bilingual French/German one that was decided on in the Élysée Treaty. There are three of those schools. Two in Germany one close to Paris. My sister and all of my friends from university went to a "normal" Gymnasium though.
(**) Yes, Gymnasium is a confusing name, but that's what it's called. Imagine the confusion of a German hearing you are going there to work out for the first time. ;)