Average number of languages spoken by North Americans falls to 0.7 - The Beaverton

Average number of languages spoken by North Americans falls to 0.7

VANCOUVER, BC ― A new analysis from the University of British Columbia has found that the number of languages in which an average North American adult is proficient enough to converse has fallen once again, dipping below 1.0 for the first time.

The metric has been on the decline for over two decades. The trend started around 1999, when, after centuries of progressing away from hieroglyphics and toward a more refined and nuanced form of written communication, emojis initiated society’s linguistic regression. This was soon accelerated by the widespread adoption of social media.

These findings come even as thousands demonstrate fluency in at least one secondary language, meaning the problem is greater than it initially appears. One such polyglot is 32-year-old Naomi Li, who immigrated to the US at 17 and now speaks English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Her mastery of three languages has hindered her at times, since her ability to correctly distinguish between “breathe” and “breath” immediately singles her out as a non-native English speaker.

The study, wherein participants listen to a recording and copy out the spoken words, was met with no surprise overseas. “As a European working in the travel industry, I have long been both aware of and offended by Americans’ inability to speak their own language, when I had to learn it specifically to accommodate them,” commented Jacques Beaulieu, a restaurant owner from France.

“These days, I usually pretend I don’t speak English at all because it’s awkward to correct them all the time.”

However, subjects themselves were not as inclined to believe the results. “I don’t know what they mean when they say I speak less than one language,” complained one participant, who was allowed to see his individual score after the study was released. “I know English, and I speak Spanish pretty good, too. Plus, I’m already halfway through Duolingo’s Klingon course.”

The authors suggested several solutions, such as replacing national anthems with Weird Al’s “Word Crimes” at the start of every sporting event, clarifying that freedom of speech does not include the right to butcher basic conjugations, and prohibiting parents from forcing their dim-witted children into French Immersion if they haven’t mastered English first.

At press time, tech developers were announcing some fancy new version of autocorrect that they hope will exacerbate the problem nicely.