Why young people must learn a second language

Data has just come out of the UK showing a drop in the number of people taking foreign languages at GCSE level (roughly NCEA Level 1). In analysing why this is the case, a major newspaper interviewed various academics and bureaucrats.

Greg Watson, the chief executive of the Oxford and Cambridge and Royal Society of Art exam board, blamed the fall on “signals from the outside world”. He said: “Young people are particularly sensitive to the force that qualifications have. I think you hear loudly and clearly from the jobs market it would be good to have maths and good to have some science. I don't think they hear a very loud signal from employers clomid spain that a language is required … It is pretty hard to see any reflection of that in job adverts.”

Throughout the article, the reporter did not bother interviewing anyone from industry, and the headline read: “Business blamed for slump in foreign language entries”

It's highly unfair to blame businesses for the current predicament. The reality is learning a language is hard work, an

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d given a choice, students would far prefer easier subjects. This doesn't mean that businesses do not value language, and far more importantly, cross-cultural skills.

I scanned through the letters to the editor subsequent to the publication of the article, and found a response by Susan Anderson, Director of Education and Skills, Confederation of British Industry, London:

“Languages are growing in importance to UK firms, as they operate in an increasingly global marketplace. Three out of four employers value their staff having conversational ability in another language. Firms don't necessarily want employees to be able to negotiate the finer points of contracts in a foreign language, but they do value the ability to strike up a rapport with a potential customer that might help a contract being drawn up in the first place”

“Young people should therefore be confident that language skills are wanted by employers”

Why didn't the media bother asking businesses for their opinion?

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About The Author

Kenneth is Director of Euroasia. He is passionate about languages and cultures.