A table shows the most-studied languages in the U.S. and how enrollments have changed since 2009. Data: MLA. 

The number of Georgia college students enrolled in foreign-language courses fell by 3.4 percent to 42,763 over the four years between 2009-13, according to a recent report by the Modern Language Association

That came after the state showed substantial progress in the 2006-09 period, with enrollments increasing 18.1 percent to 44,528. 

Still, Georgia didn’t fall as fast as the national numbers, which were 6.7 percent lower after nearly two decades of steady gains. Forty-one other states joined Georgia in posting negative growth. 

Report authors speculated that a move to career-oriented majors during the recession could have precipitated the drop, but they didn’t use data to postulate beyond that conclusion.

Nationally, Spanish still accounts for more than half of all enrollments, but its share has dropped steadily over the decades as other languages such as Chinese, Koreanand Portuguese have grown more popular. For the first time ever, Spanish also saw its raw number of enrollees decrease, from 861,008 in 2009 to 790,756 in 2013. 

Spanish wasn’t alone in the doldrums: During the four-year period ending in 2013, the next four most popular foreign languages saw enrollment numbers fall substantially (in order): French (-8.1 percent) German (-9.3 percent), Italian (-11.3 percent) and Japanese (-7.8 percent). 

Chinese, Korean and Portuguese, on the other hand, ticked up. Chinese grew to 61,000 enrollments, up only 2 percent in the last four years but tripling since 1990. Korean was the fastest-growing language by number of enrollments in the last four years, up 44 percent to 12,229 nationally. Portuguese also solidly increased, up 10.1 percent to 12,415.

Notably and perhaps in part due to geopolitical upheaval, Arabic and Russian enrollments dropped 7.5 percent and 19 percent, respectively. 

American Sign Language, meanwhile, grew by 19 percent, surpassing German for the first time as the No. 3 non-English language studied in universities. 

Find out more and read the full report here: http://www.mla.org/enrollments_surveys

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...