There’s no doubt that languages are a less popular option for a lot of pupils, yet I still hate reading stories like this one, telling me that the state sector’s rejection of languages in a hunt for the magic A* – C grade average that keeps them high up in the league tables is actually disadvantaging our less well off children, giving provately educated kiddies yet another leg up the ladder.
But what’s the point of teaching these kids a language when they don’t even speak English well, and besides, doesn’t everyone speak English now anyway?
I hate that too! No, the whole world does not speak English. There are more native Chinese speakers in the world than English speakers, and with China’s growing economy it would be stupid to ignore the possibilities of doing business with them. Spanish is probably the most widely spoken european language thanks to South America, and German is a very important business language. Language speakers in general, and German speakers are highly employable – there are jobs out there and not enough candidates to fill them. But it’s not just direct experience. Learning French, German or Spanish teaches you how to learn a language, so if later in life you need to pick up Mandarin, Russian or Arabic you know what a verb is and what it means to conjugate one.
If I had a pound for everyone who tells me that they regret not paying more attention in French/German/Spanish at school then I’d be rich – doubly so if I also had one for everyone who tells me that they envy me for my ability to speak another language. They wish they could do it, but the truth is that everyone can, and they should. All we need to do is move away from the fear and self consciousness that prevents Britons from embracing a new language!