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The Mind Matters – Americans Who Make New Year’s Resolutions Choose Academic Pursuits over Adventure and Arts,

ISI Language Solutions

Thursday, 9 December, 2010

Interest in Learning a Language Increases with Income and Education


LOS ANGELES (Dec. 9, 2010) – Aside from weight loss, improving the mind tops Americans’ list of self-improvement New Year’s Resolutions this year, according to a new survey released today by ISI Translation Services (www.isitrans.com).  


Nearly one in five (18.5 percent) chose resolutions that expand the mind – academic courses or learning a language – while 16 percent chose adventure and 12 percent want to learn an art or musical instrument.


Those are the key findings of a new nationwide survey conducted November 17-19 by ISI Translation Services (www.isitrans.com). In conjunction with Chicago market researcher Synovate eNation, ISI asked 1,000 Americans: “Aside from weight loss, which of the following “self-improvement” New Year’s resolutions will you make this year?” The answers break down as follows:


16% Do something adventurous (skydive, bungee-jump, go river-rafting, etc.)

11% Take an academic course

8% Learn an art (painting, ceramics, etc.)

7.5% Learn a foreign language

4% Learn a musical instrument

66% I don’t make New Year’s resolutions


“This is the time of year many of us think about self-improvement or how to enhance our lives during the coming year, and we wanted to get a snapshot of where ‘learning a language’ fits in with American priorities,” said George Rimalower, language specialist, founder and president of ISI. “Learning another language – either by necessity or for fun – is challenging, so it’s no surprise that more people would rather experience a momentary thrill like a bungee-jump. But those who do study another language experience something that no bungee-jump could match – the thrill of being able to truly communicate with someone from another culture.”


Interest in learning a language increases with income and with education. Interest triples from the lowest education level to the highest – with 4 percent of those with high school or less choosing language, while 12 percent of those with post-grad degrees did the same.


Respondents age 65+ were the least likely to make resolutions at all – only 17 percent of the group do so – but they were the only age group to make “learning a language” their second-most popular answer.


That said, the younger age groups chose language at higher rates than their older counterparts. The age groups 18-24, 25-34 and 35-44 all beat the average – with 8 percent, 9 percent and 11 percent (respectively) choosing language as a personal improvement goal, compared to the overall average of 7.5 percent of total respondents.


Non-white respondents were nearly three times as likely as white respondents to choose language – 15 percent compared with 6 percent, respectively.


Those in the west were more likely than other regions to choose language – 10 percent in the West, versus 5 percent in the Midwest, 6 percent in the Northeast and 8 percent in the South.


Part-time and self-employed respondents were far more likely to choose language than those employed full-time, retired or not employed.


Women were slightly more likely than men to choose learning a foreign language (8 percent versus 7 percent, respectively). Additional survey highlights:


• Perhaps countering stereotypes, those in the West were more likely than those in the Northeast to choose “academic course” as a path toward self-improvement – 19 percent of those in the West, versus 11 percent of those in the Northeast. 

• Non-white respondents were twice as likely as white respondents to choose academic course (19 percent versus 9 percent, respectively).

• Men were more likely than women to choose doing something adventurous and learning a musical instrument, while women were more likely to choose academic course, learning an art and learning a foreign language.

• Americans’ tolerance for risk predictably starts strong younger and progressively decreases until the 55-64 age group, but then rises again slightly for those age 65+ – perhaps suggesting a caution-to-the-wind attitude at that age.


“As a company, we study and immerse ourselves in the culture of language,” said Rimalower. “This survey is one way of digging deeper to understand American priorities when it comes to language, so we can help healthcare, financial services and other companies know how to use translation and language to expand their businesses and improve communications.


“It will be especially interesting to watch and measure attitude toward learning languages over the next few years, as we anticipate the census revealing even more language groups within our own country. It’s not just for travelers anymore.”  


The ISI/Synovate survey has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. For a full copy of the survey results and a graphic presentation of top-line data, email [email protected].

About ISI

ISI enables successful communication through full-service language and localization solutions, from a global team of linguists deeply rooted in the cultural and technical nuances of virtually every language used in business.


With $18, a blue blazer and a yellow VW, George Rimalower started translating in the ‘70s back when the typewriter was high-tech. He founded ISI Translation Services, Inc. in 1982 and was joined by his wife Cathi in 1986. Today, ISI is known worldwide for combining the latest technology with expert human touch at every stage – from project management to translating, editing, desktop publishing, proofreading and review – to enable successful communication in more than 100 languages and dialects. ISI serves a wide range of industries and organizations, specializing in healthcare, life sciences, pharmaceutical and financial services. ISI was one of the first to address the special linguistic and cultural needs of both non- and limited-English-proficient communities of the United States. ISI is based in Los Angeles, with hundreds of translators in the United States and worldwide. Visit facebook.com/ISITranslations.


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Media Contact:

Ken Greenberg Edge Communications, Inc.


[email protected]