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Gary's thought for the Month

Languages are an increasingly key issue across all areas of policy and government

Gary Muddyman | 07th August 2015

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages and their efforts to promote language education in British schools and universities

From earlier posts of mine, you may have been aware of my attendance at The All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages and their efforts to promote language education in British schools and universities.

Despite some victories – for example, languages in primary schools became statutory in England last year – it is still a continuing struggle. I find the wheels of Government frustratingly slow and, in truth, the battle is with a culture that pervades this country. Other than a few champions, there is not really a will or, candidly, an interest from most influencers.

Yet language competency is becoming increasingly important in today’s increasingly diverse and interconnected world. It goes to the very heart of UK’s economic competitiveness on the world stage and the ability of British students to challenge in the global market for talent.

According to the First European Survey on Language Competences competed by the European Commission in 2012, only 9% of English 15 year olds are competent in their first foreign language beyond a basic level, compared with an average of 42% across 14 countries. Also, the number of students taking language degrees is at a record low, with 44 universities having scrapped language degrees since 2000 (see APPG Manifesto for Languages Launch for more information).

This is clearly relevant to the work of Conversis and has a direct impact on our customers. This is why we commissioned our own research project earlier this year amongst the UK’s c-suite to find out what implications the lack of cultural awareness and language skills in the UK have on employment opportunities for our youth and the impact it has for UKplc in general.

Our project closely resembles similar work carried out in the USA by Bill Rivers, our friend and colleague who is chair of key groups on National Council for Language and International Studies in the States. It will be interesting to compare results. We will be launching our report in September after which I will comment further. Look out for it!

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