The UK has identified 10 languages that the government deems necessary for the country’s global standing and prosperity in the future. These languages include Japanese, Turkish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, German, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and Spanish, according to a report published by the British Council.
The British Council is putting pressure on the schools to teach a wider variety of foreign languages and have these given the same footing as the maths and sciences. They say that more adults should also learn at least one new language. Mr. John Worne of the British Council stresses that failure to act on this crucial need places the UK at risk of losing out culturally and economically. He also adds that more people should learn some of these 10 languages, particularly Chinese, Japanese and Arabic.
The authors of the report have analyzed educational, cultural, political and economic data to come up with the 10 most important languages that will affect the UK’s influence, security and prosperity on the global scale for the next 20 years or more. They also found out that 75% of the 4,000 UK adults surveyed were not able to speak any of the identified languages in a level good enough for them to hold a conversation. Accordingly, some 15% said that they can converse in French although the percentages go lower when it comes to German, Spanish and Italian. The survey also said the only about 1% or lower can speak a language included in the top 10 list.
Martyn Heather, the Premier League’s head of education concurs, for he believes that the ability to speak another language paves the way for more opportunities for football players and coaches to work abroad. For him the ability to understand languages makes a person feel more confident when dealing with other cultures, thus making more people with multilingual abilities to thrive better overseas.
For Mr. Worne, functional skill rather than fluency in a language is more liberating, and challenges UK citizens to learn at least 1,000 words in a foreign language. He added that beginning with a few words and phrases is an investment that can mature into a lifetime interest and can open up new opportunities and employment.
The report urges the education sector to make use of the language skills of the cultural communities in the country while the business sector should invest in educating/teaching languages that will eventually benefit them.
A UK Department of Education spokesperson said that the introduction of the new EBacc (English Baccalaureate) is reversing the trend for the annual fall of enrolments. The course includes one language, sciences, either geography or history, mathematics and English. The spokesperson also added that from the 2014 school year, it will become compulsory for school children between the ages of 7 to 14 to be taught a foreign language.