In 1985 the United States Department of Education published a list of 169 ‘crucial
languages’ worthy of study, including Pushtu, Lamani, Mordvin, and the West African
language of Ga.
There was a very modest revival going on in US schools and colleges, where over 90
per cent of those learning a foreign language were studying Spanish (especially near
the Mexican border), French (especially near Quebec and New Orleans) or German, a
language whose scientific and technical papers are almost as vital to the US scientific
community as those in Japanese.
Compare this to 1987 where children in London’s schools spoke 172 different languages.
As the number of languages heard in classrooms rose so too did the number of schoolchildren
who were not fluent in English, from 35,589 pupils to 44,448.
The increase was due to a steep rise in new non-English speakers. In all 22.7 per
cent of pupils - 64,987 - did not speak English at home. The survey found that the
number of Bengali speakers - the most common language, apart from English - has tripled
to 16,976 since 1981 and that the number of Vietnamese speakers had risen six-fold
to 1,028 in the same period.
Overall, the second most common language was Turkish (4,495) followed by Chinese
(4,325), Gujerati (3,930), Urdu (3,808), Spanish (3,229), Punjabi (3,200), Arabic
(3,067) and Greek (2,596).