Let’s make learning languages cool again
It would seem that the young people of Britain
prefer studying sciences and economics to
foreign languages. The latest A-levels figures
show that foreign language studies have fallen
to their lowest levels in years. This raised the
concern among universities and industry, and
quite rightly so.
How can the UK be a major player in the world
economy when its future captains of industry
can't communicate with the rest of the world?
Nobody denies the importance of learning new languages, but the British seem not to be concerned
with this. As long as English is seen as the default global language, why would they need to bother?
I want to suggest a solution to this problem
The first step of solving a problem is to admit its existence. A generation of British people who are
monolingual in a world where global communication is becoming ever more important will be a
disaster for the economy and culture in a very proud nation. Most non English speaking countries
already insist on their children learning at least one other language, their governments realise that
keeping their population isolated by language is a huge error.
So why do British children avoid studying languages?
1. Languages are complex subjects and may be unpredictable, unlike maths or other exact
2. Languages may be marked too harshly, which leads to lower overall performance of pupils and nobody wants this.
3. Pupils might not consider language learning a useful thing, due to the overall notion that
everybody else speaks English.
4. The 'stiff upper lip' attitude still prevails heavily in Britain. So trying something very publicly,
like speaking in a foreign language in front of your peers, causes a lot of embarrassment.
How can we make British teenagers opt for learning languages?
Well, even though learning a second language is optional for the British schoolchildren, it is still an
option. Let's MAKE them choose it. Young people, British or not, are highly impressionable by
whatever they consider cool.
So let’s make language learning cool.
Learning a language is like a role play, you could be:
A French artisan discussing philosophy and the meaning of life
Volunteering in Africa helping people in turbulent areas
A Chinese entrepreneur at the forefront of new technology
Exploring the jungles of Indonesia discovering new plants and animals
A Latin American rapper bringing new blends of music to the world
The joy of language learning lies in the freedom it gives you as a person. Speaking a different
language gives your mind a change of clothes.