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'Now More Than Ever' - Why The UK Needs To Make More Time For Language Learning In The Run Up To Brexit

17/11/2016 15:57

'Language skills matter now more than ever' - that is the resounding message coming from the British Council's latest piece of research on language learning in the post-Brexit landscape. But with language uptake low in schools - and the majority of us admitting our own linguistic skills are rusty at best - what can be done to make sure languages get the recognition they deserve as the UK prepares to leave the EU?

Well the good news is that the majority of us recognise the vital role that languages have to play in the current climate. Out of the 2,000 UK adults surveyed by Populus in our new poll for International Education Week, 63 per cent saw the ability to speak other languages as being essential if the country is to remain "outward looking". 61 per cent said they were more vital than ever if the UK is to remain "open for business" in light of the result of the EU referendum.

More than that, most of those surveyed also recognised the UK's current failings when it comes to multilingualism - 67 per cent believed that as a country, we currently don't give enough encouragement to young people to learn languages with nearly two thirds (63 per cent) saying that schools need to make more time for languages as the country gets set to renegotiate its position on the world stage.

So, with all this positivity around language learning, what can be done to make sure we capitalise on it and do everything we can to ensure more of our young people are inspired to speak other languages?

Well, for starters, the British Council is encouraging people to make time for languages in recognition of International Education Week this week. For schools, we have put together some tips from expert teachers and heads we work with on how to make more time for languages and international awareness in the curriculum. Students often question the value of language learning and ask: where can languages take me? So we have put together interviews with nine inspiring people whose language skills have given them unique opportunities in life including a scientist, an Ambassador and an entrepreneur.

And for schools keen to get started on their international journey, the British Council's Schools Online site has lots of information on how to bring a better global awareness into lessons as well as the whole ethos of a school.

The reality is that we are entering a new era in terms of the UK and its position in the world. Language skills are an asset for international trade and negotiations, an asset we have never been particularly blessed with as a country, and one we are sadly in danger of losing.

That said, what is clear, from this new research at least, is that the will to improve our language skills is there, among the British public. For teachers, pupils and parents, this week is certainly a good time to start taking advantage of that but if we are to ensure languages get the place they deserve more widely, we need to make language learning a national and personal priority going forward.

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