FARMINGTON — State education officials have plans to add more Chinese- and, eventually, Arabic-language classes in public schools.

Gregg Roberts, state Office of Education world-language specialist, said the United States is in desperate need of people who speak critical languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi and Turkish.

He said these languages are becoming increasingly important for national defense and global trade occupations.

"The business community are the ones screaming for kids to speak another language," he said.

Davis School District employee Bonnie Flint was one of two Utahns to join a delegation of 400 U.S. educators on a tour of the Chinese school system earlier this month.

The program is part of an effort to expand Chinese-language programs in America and English-language programs in China, Flint said.

The Chinese government hopes to create an exchange program for teachers and students, she said.

Roberts said that within five years many Utah schools will have an active Chinese-language program. Arabic-language programs will take longer to establish, he said, but are expected in the distant future.

Chinese classes should begin in the Weber School District by 2007, said district spokesman Nate Taggart.

Flint said the Davis School District plans to add Chinese-language programs by the 2007-08 school year.

Ogden School District currently offers a Chinese-language class at Ogden High.

Roberts said Utah is one of the few places where only one university — the University of Utah — requires incoming students to have at least two years of foreign-language classes.

"We are really behind in Utah," Roberts said. "If kids plan on going out of state for college, they'll need two or three years (of a foreign language)."

New languages may be added to schools' curriculums, but that does not mean traditional language classes are unimportant, he said.

Spanish is becoming more and more important, he said, and German and French are valuable for international business. French is still widely used in Europe, Canada and Africa, Roberts said.

"French is still a major international language. There are more French-speaking people in Africa than Spanish-speaking people in South America," he said.

The state has applied for a federal grant that would allow sixth-grade students to take six weeks each of several languages. This would give students the chance to see which language they like best.