I don't know if things have changed since I was in school since I haven't bothered to ask anyone, but it used to be here in Texas that students were required to learn a foreign language as a graduation requirement. It's generally not a problem if you want learn a mundane language like Spanish or French or German. I mean, really, who is going to use French in Texas? You can even learn dead languages like Latin. I suspect you could even find a school that teaches completely useless languages like Esperanto or Klingon. Somehow, my youngest nephew managed to take Japanese of all languages. In the sleepy little town of Granbury no less. Who knew?
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against learning other languages. I think multilingualism is necessary in a global society. After all, we can't all be ugly Americans. But I digress.
Being the non-conformist I once thought myself to be, I took German in school. I thought it was a great choice at the time. My sister had taken French; and, if she wanted to learn it, I didn't. Besides, you couldn't get into a Spanish class unless you had registered at conception. Most people might think that German in Texas is about as useful as French; and, with a few minor exceptions, they would be right.
Despite all the help wanted and job postings you see with the words "Bilingual Required" or "Bilingual a plus", they don't seem to have languages other than Spanish in mind. Never once have I run into a situation where someone said, "I can't understand a word these Germans are saying. Go get Erickson." Still though, I've listed my moderate fluency in German on every job application I've ever filled out. Maybe one day someone will see the value of having someone with severely rusty German in a position of importance, but I'm not holding my breath.
What would be really helpful, though, is if schools taught really useful languages. For instance, both my mother and my wife speak "Thingie". These are both educated, gifted, intelligent women; but, somehow, they both managed to learn a version of English that most men are incapable of understanding. I'll give you an example. Picture two people watching television.
Mom: Where's the thingie?
Me: Which thingie are you referring to?
Mom: You know. The thingie for the thing.
Me: Oh, that thing.
Me: Your sitting on it.
Mom: That would explain why the thing keeps changing channels.
Somehow, I managed to become a native speaker of Thingie. I think it came from my mother speaking Thingie to me at an early age. Like most complex languages, Thingie is highly dependent on context and intonation.
I think every man should learn Thingie. Fathers should be teaching it to their sons. Women appreciate a man who can understand Thingie. I know it's been very helpful in my marriage. Now, if only my employer would see the value of having someone fluent in Thingie on their payroll.