In the last 2 months, I’ve been asked to appear on BBC Radio to discuss the teaching of languages in primary up to degree level education. Both talk-ins explored the reasons why younger pupils weren’t taking up Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) in school and centred on the government’s initiatives to learn a foreign language from an earlier age. The discussion also talked about the relevance of foreign languages in British society. Finally, the topic of language and business was touched upon.
This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed the issue on the radio and it won’t be the last. Though there has been some improvement in MFL provision across the UK, not enough is being done to meet the demands of students, especially at an earlier stage. This would allow children to engage with the language and realise the benefits of studying languages further (and not just to teach). If younger pupils are made more aware of their career options and the growing commerce market in Central and South America, they would be more inclined to at least explore studying Spanish at exam and degree level. This would then create more teachers who would teach in schools and the cycle would continue and the shortfall halted.
Exchange trips, work experience in companies with foreign counterparts and clients, interaction with peers in schools abroad, the use of apps in language learning and being able to study more than one European language for GCSE level, provide some of the answers.
All too many times we come across adults who wish they had persevered with languages in school (or indeed even offered them as a subject choice) as they now see the need for them…