If we’re talking about the number of people with extensive foreign experience and near-native foreign language ability, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” It was my first big surprise upon arriving in Utah over 20 years ago, and now so observes Nicholas Kristof of the NYT (below).
The deeper point not to be missed, however, is that language study and, more broadly, the humanities and in-depth experience abroad are a magnet for global business. Those who think that language study is “not useful” or “a waste of time” because the world speaks English are clearly mistaken. The explosive growth of global companies and organizations locating in Utah (of all places) stands as clear evidence. Graduates of Utah’s universities are also heavily recruited by government agencies and for overseas employment by multinationals.
This success explains why Utah now has one of the biggest language immersion programs in the country. Kids in even remote cowboy towns can do half of the curriculum from 1st grade through the end of high school in Spanish, French, Portuguese or Chinese. More languages are currently being considered. The reason is that a majority of Utahns understand that opportunity at home now means opening on to the world.
Utah may well be the most cosmopolitan state in America. Vast numbers of young Mormons — increasingly women as well as men — spend a couple of years abroad as missionaries and return jabbering in Thai or Portuguese and bearing a wealth of international experience.
More than 130 languages are spoken
daily in commerce in Utah, according to the University of Utah, and
that’s one reason it sometimes tops the Forbes list of best states to do
business. The state is a center for trade and for global companies.