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Survey Finds Shortage of Qualified Language Teachers in US


A new survey finds that job opportunities for foreign language instructors are increasing at U.S. colleges and universities, but finding qualified teachers, especially for languages like Arabic and Chinese, is proving difficult. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

The report by the Modern Language Association (MLA) finds a growing number of full time foreign language teaching positions at U.S. colleges and universities. The group, which tracks language enrollments and works to strengthen the study of language and literature, says it expects a 4.3 percent increase in the number of positions over last year.

MLA's Executive Director Rosemary Feal says there are notable increases in job opportunities for Arabic and Chinese instructors, but filling these positions is another story. She says finding qualified teachers for these languages and others, like Urdu and Korean, is a challenge. "You've got this really rapid increase in demand and yet it takes quite a while to prepare to be a teacher, and you don't have the supply of teachers just waiting. In fact, in languages like Arabic, the number of PhDs per year is below 20," she said.

Feal says there is a scramble to find high quality well-prepared teachers for certain languages.

New York University's Catharine Stimpson says the issue of teaching languages is extremely important in today's globalized world. The Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences says preparing good teachers means preparing good students, well ahead of graduate school. "What one has to look at is the 'pipeline' into PhD programs - look at what's happening in the high schools, then what's happening in the colleges, then what's happening in the graduate schools. We're conscious of the need to make sure the pipeline is flowing with people who love languages and want to teach them," she said.

Stimpson and Feal both say the rise in job opportunities reflects the significance of learning other languages, even in an increasingly English-speaking world. Feal says the advantage of knowing a foreign language speaks for itself. "The ability to communicate in English will be the big picture but all the micro-pictures are where we need the languages. We aren't going to get deep inside cultural knowledge or geo-political knowledge with an English-only approach," said Ms. Feal.

The MLA releases an analysis of the language job market every year before its annual convention.

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