President Barack Obama thinks that more Americans should learn foreign languages, rather than rely on English being the biggest language in the world.
During a town hall for his Young African Leaders Initiative, one student pointed out that it was difficult to qualify for the program because one of the requirements was that students know the English language. She encouraged him to promote English learning classes across the entire African continent, so that countries who were not native English speakers could get more opportunities.
“For a range of historical reasons, English in some ways has become a ‘lingua franca,’ [common language],” he said. “Frankly I wish we as Americans did a better job of learning other languages.”
Obama said Americans were less inclined to learn a foreign language because English is so popular. But he warned that they should change as economic globalization became more prevalent.
“Now in an interconnected world, the more languages we speak are the better,” he said.
Obama has admitted in the past that he doesn’t speak a foreign language, calling it “embarrassing.”
While campaigning for president, Obama lectured Americans who demanded English-only laws to teach their children Spanish.
“Understand this, instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish,” Obama said during a campaign event in 2008.