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A modern language is any human language that is currently in use. The term is used in a language education context (in high schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities) to distinguish between languages which are used for day-to-day communication (such as French and German), and classical languages (also called "dead languages") such as Latin, Attic Greek, Sanskrit, and Classical Chinese, which are studied for their cultural or linguistic value.

The teaching of modern languages

Modern languages are taught extensively around the world; see second language acquisition. English is taught as a second or foreign language in most countries; see English language learning and teaching.


Most children learn an official version of their native language or learn a local major lingua franca (for example Mandarin) in Asia-Pacific countries, and all subjects are taught in that lingua franca language except for foreign language lessons.Singaporemarker is the an exception, in which English is taught as a first language. In Indiamarker, children usually learn to speak their native language first (for example. Hindi, Tamil, Bengali etc), at home, while English is primarily usually used as the medium of instruction and taught as a first language, in school. English is the most studied foreign language in the People's Republic of Chinamarker, Japanmarker, South Koreamarker and Taiwan marker. In PR China, English is a required language beginning with the third grade, although the quality of instruction varies greatly and most Chinese citizens do not speak it well. The study of English is also required in Indiamarker, where it is used for official communication. In Nepalmarker, almost all subjects are taught in English, except for Nepali literature.


In Malaysiamarker, the Malay and English languages are taught as compulsory languages from the first year of primary school with the exception of publicly funded vernacular schools (known as national type schools). In the latter, either Mandarin or Tamil are taught as additional compulsory languages. In non-vernacular schools, all subjects with the exception of the sciences and mathematics are taught in Malay. In vernacular schools, all subjects with the exception of the sciences and mathematics are taught in the primary language that is used in the respective schools. The sciences and mathematics are taught in English although some Mandarin vernacular schools have dispensation to also teach those subjects in Mandarin concurrently.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka where the official state languages are Sinhalese, Tamil and English all government schools instruct either in Sinhala or Tamil medium. Few higher level government schools (National level schools) also offer the option of English medium. All student studying in Sinhalese or English are also taught English as a second laguage. All students studying in Sinhalese are also taught Tamil as a second language (and vice versa).

Middle East and North Africa

Language study in the Middle East and North Africa varies from one country to another, usually depending on the foreign nation that colonized or occupied the country. For instance, in Algeriamarker, Moroccomarker and Tunisiamarker(Maghreb region), French is the most widely-studied language besides the native Arabic, while in Egyptmarker and the Gulf countries (such as the United Arab Emiratesmarker, Kuwaitmarker, and Omanmarker), English is the primary supplementary language. The teaching of languages other than Arabic is uncommon in some countries, such as Iraqmarker, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabiamarker, Syriamarker, and Yemenmarker . In these countries, English and other foreign languages tend to be offered as subjects only in certain, wealthier schools.


All children learn Arabic in school. In addition, English is mandatory beginning with the fourth grade (9 years of age). Another language is mandatory for the last two years of high school (17–18 years), with French and German being most commonly learned. As Egyptmarker's economy depends mainly on tourism, many modern languages are taught and spoken there. That is for basic school in Egypt, but it also depends on which schools students attend. For instance, in French schools in Egyptmarker students learn Arabic, French and then English later on. And in German schools in Egyptmarker students learn Arabic, German and then English and probably some basic French as well.

European Union

In all European Union school systems, it is mandatory to study at least one foreign language at some stage during the school career; there is a tendency for this to start earlier, even in the first year of primary school. Additional languages can be chosen as an optional subject. The most common foreign language chosen is increasingly English (the most popular first foreign language in 23 of the 25 EU Member States which do not have English as the language of instruction), followed by French and German. Some 90% of pupils learn English as a foreign language, whether the choice of language is obligatory or parental. Teaching is largely provided by generalist teachers in primary school and by specialists in middle and secondary schools. An exception to this is Ireland, where Irish Gaelic and English are the only mandatory languages in which neither of them is considered foreign to the Island.

United Kingdom

All children of the United Kingdom learn English at school. In Walesmarker, all children at state schools learn Welsh until age 16; they will be taught in the medium of Welsh or learn Welsh as a second language depending on where they live. [182863]

In addition, Modern Foreign Languages is a compulsory component in the state education system. At least one language is studied until the end of Key Stage 3, the most popular being French followed by Spanish, German or Italian. Particular schools may require younger students to study additional languages, and they may be given the option to continue these. Schools are required to teach a program of languages according to local and national guidelines.From 2010, all primary-school pupils in Key Stage 2 (aged 7 – 11) will be entitled to some teaching of a modern foreign language.English is taught to immigrant adults and youths as necessary.

United States

All children learn English at school in the United States. In public school districts containing large numbers of immigrant children, bilingual education, in which instruction is initially largely taught in the student's native language, may be offered, though this practice is controversial.

American students are increasingly recommended (and at times required) to study a foreign language course in high school level, and often also at the university level. In addition, a growing number of school districts are offering foreign-language courses at the elementary and middle school levels, usually on an optional basis.

In 2002, the most studied foreign languages at American institutes of higher education in 2002 were, in order of popularity: Spanish, French, German, Italian, American Sign Language, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian [182864].


All children learn Spanish at school. They begin to learn English at the age of six in pre-school, in some other schools like San Jose De Tarde in Caracasmarker (the capital) all the children begin to learn French and English at the same time when they are promoted from pre-school to middle school. Also in distributed points of the country are little schools for learning Chinese (because of the growing number of Chinese immigrants) for all ages starting from the age of eight.

Auxiliary languages

International auxiliary languages are by definition not associated with a particular country or geographic region. Esperanto is probably the most well known. Interlingua, a popular and rapidly growing auxiliary language, is spoken mainly in Northern and Eastern Europe and in South America, with substantial numbers of speakers in Central Europe, Ukrainemarker, Russiamarker, and Japanmarker. Other auxiliary languages include Occidental and Latino Sine Flexione.

See also


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