A dearth of foreign language skills accounts for nearly a fifth of hard-to-fill vacancies in the UK, a survey has found.
The British Academy-Guardian Language Festival was highly successful in promoting language learning through its School Language Awards announcing 13 prize winners, including seven supplementary and six state schools, for innovation in how to increase the numbers of students learning languages at higher levels. Here are the festival highlights.
The Festival concluded with the very high profile award of the first ever Public Language Champion going to Arsène Wenger, Manager of Arsenal Football Club. Arsène, in addition to being an outstanding football manager, speaks English, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese in addition to French. His passion for language learning has led to the development of the Double Club, a scheme which encourages children in primary and secondary schools to develop their language skills through football.
Perhaps with a presage of David Cameron’s recent support for the learning of Mandarin Chinese, Arsène said that he would like to learn Chinese one day. S2F will be developing closer links with the Arsenal Double Club to promote language learning in London and nation-wide throughout 2014.
Language Rich Europe has had a very busy few months! In this post, LRE Director Simon Ingram-Hill reflects on some of the project’s recent activity.
After the launch events across the 25 participating European countries and regions this summer and the 50+ consultative workshops so far held, there was major LRE media coverage in a number of countries not least Scotland on 26 November about the lack of foreign language competence in UK hurting British business competitiveness.
We have just held our first major international conference at the British Academy with 160 policy makers and high level practitioners, debating key results from the research findings. British Council CEO Martin Davidson then launched the English version to 250 stakeholders of LRE’s CUP publication ‘Trends in Language Policies and Practices for Multilingualism in Europe’.
Other indications of how seriously this project is being taken: the full report is to be published in 19 other languages; we presented LRE to the all-party parliamentary committee on Modern Languages at the House of Lords on 10 December; key recommendations are being formulated for presentation at the European Parliament Brussels on 5 March.
And best? At the Report’s launch Caroline Parker signed a number of songs to much applause reprising her acclaimed performance at the Paralympics 2012 opening ceremony. Sign language by the way is an official minority language in many European countries.
Martin Dowle, Director British Council Ukraine, presented the language situation in Wales at last week’s Language Rich Europe launch in Kyiv. In this blog post, he summarises the approaches Wales is taking in order to promote Welsh and prevent its decline.
Is it inevitable that minority languages will always suffer decline? The case of Welsh shows this does not need to be the case. Since its low point in 1991, when just 18% of the Welsh population spoke Welsh, it has started to make a modest recovery. Today, 37% of 3 to 14 year-olds are able to speak Welsh, compared to just 15% in 1971, fuelling recovery from the cradle upwards.
Today, there are an estimated 611,000 Welsh speakers in Wales. Of these, 315,000 are native speakers, and the rest have competency, as a second language, to a greater or lesser degree.
Official figures suggest Wales loses between 1,200 and 2,200 native speakers every year. The number of communities – mostly rural — where 70% or more are native speakers continues to decline. But more people now speak (and are learning) Welsh as a second language in cities such as Cardiff than ever before.
In part this reflects a change in attitude to Welsh amongst non-Welsh speakers. Recent polling suggested 80% of Welsh people saw the language as something to be proud of. This is a far cry from the hostility that greeted the decision by the government in the early 1980s to set up a fourth TV channel solely in Welsh. Attitudes have changed, and this matters.
In 2000, the teaching of Welsh became compulsory in all schools up to the age of 16. The number of Welsh-medium schools is growing, as are measures to build the capacity of teachers to teach through the medium of Welsh.
But the Welsh government’s policy argues the school setting is not enough. Policy seems to me to focus on two areas.
First: the home. It encourages mothers and social carers, midwives, and nursery education to help develop the adoption of Welsh as a first language. If two parents speak Welsh, it’s estimated the chances the child will too are around 80%. If only one speaks Welsh, the chances are halved.
Second: the leisure activities of adolescents. The language is at risk if young people don’t see the benefit of speaking it, or think it’s cool to switch to English. So an effective language policy needs to consider youth culture, peer-group pressure, community attitudes, the global media and social networking. Providing enough cultural and social value to tip the balance in favour of Welsh is a big ask – but it’s essential to long-term survival. So policies really do need to focus on the language of ‘interaction’.
Read more about languages in Wales on the Language Rich Europe website and in our previous blog posts:
At a time of globalisation, troubled economies and increasing migration, knowledge of foreign languages is critical to building social bridges, improving job prospects and enhancing competitiveness in Europe.
How well is Wales responding to these challenges?
The Welsh launch of Language Rich Europe will take place on Tuesday 9 October at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff.
The programme is as follows:
Welcome and introduction from Simon Dancey, Director British Council Wales
Address by the Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM
The Importance of Multilingualism, overview from Professor Colin Williams, Cardiff University
Language Rich Europe Wales and UK results – Dr Lid King, Director The Languages Company
Panel discussion – Aled Eirug (British Council Wales Advisory Committee Chair), Professor Colin Williams (Cardiff University), Professor Stephen Hagen (Newport University), and Dr Lid King (Languages Company)
On 28 June 2012 Baroness Coussins attended the Language Rich Europe launch in the UK. Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Modern Languages Group, she also asked Her Majesty’s Government the following question about LRE in England:
what is their response to the research report published in June 2012 by the British Council-led Language Rich Europe consortium on its findings in England [HL1136]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford) responded:
We welcome this report and the valuable evidence it provides. Knowing a language benefits individuals and the economy more widely.
The Government is already taking steps to improve the take-up of languages in schools. We have announced that a language will be statutory for all seven to eleven year olds in maintained schools from 2014. A consultation will be launched shortly on what form this might take. Further, the English Baccalaureate has started to reverse the long-term decline of numbers taking languages at GCSE. We will be making an announcement on the secondary curriculum in due course.
You can read the Language Rich Europe profile for England on our website.
It’s time for some summertime fun with languages! Below our Communications Manager David Sorrentino has listed a few fun facts about languages and multilingualism.
Which ones did you know already? Do you know any other interesting facts you’d like to share?
- The distress code ‘Mayday’ comes from the French for help me, ‘M’Aide’.
- The United States does not have an official language.
- ‘Taxi’ is a word that has the same spelling in many languages, including English, German, French, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese and more.
- More people speak English in China than in the United States.
- For over 600 years England’s official language was French.
- The name “Canada” originates from an Indian word which means “village”.
- Europe is home to roughly 225 indigenous languages or around 3% of the world’s total.
- At least half of all the people on earth can speak two or more languages.
- The city of London is linguistically diverse with around 300 languages spoken.
- According to the BBC, Human communication might have been sparked by involuntary sounds such as “ouch” or “eek” or by communal activities such as heaving or carrying heavy objects, coordinated by shouts of “yo-he-ho”, etc. Another theory proposes that language evolved from the communication between mother and baby, with the mother repeating the baby’s babbling and giving it a meaning. Indeed, in most languages “mama” or similar “ma”-sounds actually mean ‘mother’.
For more, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/guide/languages.shtml
To help us kick off our project at the London School of Economics on 28 June we want to open up the debate and get ideas from across the twittersphere on one of our major topics of discussion and even invite our Twitter followers to attend!
Everyone will be able to take part using our twitter hash tag, #LREUK, during the event to give thoughts and ask questions on the main topics of discussion:
- Nearly a million school age children have another language besides English, but we do not seem to value this “linguistic capital”.
- There is great enthusiasm for learning a language from an early age, but provision is still less than in most European countries.
- More learners abandon language learning at 14 than in any other of the countries surveyed; very few continue with a language after 16.
- Advanced language learning is a class issue in England – the private sector and selective schools dominate at “A” level and despite brilliant exceptions “vocational” language learning is minimal.
- Business and employers generally need languages; many say this, but very few actively promote them.
- Our vibrant cities are effectively multicultural and multilingual and some lead the way in Europe.
The views of all those who respond will be shared with participants and panellists at the interactive workshop discussion happening 16:00h GMT on the 28th. We will have a screen showing tweets with #LREUK as they happen and we will be tweeting live from this discussion so you can follow along with debate and continue to send your views.
We welcome all who wish to take part so please spread the word and join us for this important event.
For more information on the event, please see our earlier blog post about it.
Did you know that…
“A flourishing voluntary “complementary” sector provides opportunities for children to learn languages spoken in their communities. This serves both primary and secondary school children (and earlier). A 2005 survey (Community Language Learning in England, Wales and Scotland, CILT, 2005) found provision in after school and Saturday classes for at least 61 languages. An innovative national programme, Our Languages, ran from 2008-2010 to promote and strengthen this provision and to draw it into contact with mainstream schools. Under this scheme any language may be offered in primary schools, and some languages of the wider world are taught, usually in areas with large minority populations and/or as part of “language taster” and intercultural awareness programmes.”
The UK launch of Language Rich Europe will take place on 28 June 2012 at the London School of Economics.
Take part in the discussion via our Twitter hashtag for this launch: #LREUK. More details coming up soon on this blog and on Twitter.
The programme is as follows:
9.15 Registration & coffee
Venue: Lower Ground Floor, New Academic Building, LSE
10.00 – 10.45 Welcome
Dr Lid King, Director, The Languages Company
The importance of multilingualism
With short inputs from:
Nick Byrne, Director, London School of Economics Language Centre
Michael Carrier, Head of English Language Innovation, British Council
Baroness Jean Coussins, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group Modern Languages
The Speak to the Future Campaign
10.45 – 11.45 Language Rich Europe
Martin Hope, Director, British Council Benelux and Project Director, Language Rich Europe
Guus Extra, Chair of Language and Minorities, Tilburg University, Netherlands
England and the UK context
Dr Lid King, Director, The Languages Company
11.45 – 12.55 Response from key stakeholders
Chaired by: Bernardette Holmes, Director, Languages First, University of Cambridge Language Centre, & President, Association for Language Learning
• Richard Hardie, Chair, UBS & Vice President, Institute of Linguists
• Lizze Fane, Founder, Third Year Abroad
• Rosie Goldsmith, Independent Broadcaster
• Joe Brown, Deputy Headteacher, Old Oak Primary School, London
• Tony Travers, Director, LSE
• Humair Naqvi, Head of Government and Education EMEA, Rosetta Stone
12.55 – 13.00 Summing up
Dr Lid King, Director, The Languages Company
13.00 – 14.00 Lunch
Served at the Lower Ground Floor (outside the Wolfson Theatre)
Language Rich Europe, UK workshop (London):
“The question of English: what are the particularities of an English-speaking country?”
14.00 – 14.05 Introduction to the Workshop
Venue: Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building
Lid King, Director, The Languages Company
14.05 – 16.00 Workshop discussions:
Venue: Room U101, First Floor, Tower 1 Building
Venue: Room U103, First Floor, Tower 1 Building
Venue: Room U108, First Floor, Tower 1 Building
16.00 – 16.30 Discussion of findings with interactive voting
Venue: Lecture Theatre U8, Ground Floor, Tower 1 Building
Lid King, Director, The Languages Company
16.30 – 18.00 Drinks reception
Venue: Café Bar, 4th Floor, Old Building
Today’s blog post is written by Aneta Quraishy, our Language Rich Europe Project Manager, who is based in British Council Berlin. Please read on to find out about her experiences on working in a project which promotes multilingualism.
OK, I may have my personal reasons for getting involved like being multilingual myself and not being able to imagine living a different reality or not having a bookshelf of books written in Czech, English, Spanish and French and revelling in the fact that I can reach for any of these and understand them all without much difficulty nowadays.
However, professionally, as Senior Project Manager of Language Rich Europe I often get asked by contacts, friends and family why the British Council is promoting multilingualism and simply not just focussing on English teaching and exams. My direct answer would be that we are a cultural relations organisation and the encouragement of diversity in language learning, acquisition and support of multilingualism should be at the heart of any such endeavour. The British Council should be and is committed to building long term relationships and trust between people in the UK and other countries and this does not simply happen by imposing English onto them.
The overall objectives of Language Rich Europe are:
- to facilitate the exchange of good practice in promoting intercultural dialogue and social inclusion through language teaching and learning;
- to promote European cooperation in developing language policies and practices across several education sectors and broader society;
- to raise awareness of the EU and Council of Europe recommendations for promoting language learning and linguistic diversity across Europe.
Ironically all this came even more to my mind when I read a recent Guardian article by Robert Phillipson (Linguistic imperialism alive and kicking, 16 March), which conveyed concerns of internationally driven efforts to strengthen the learning of English and claimed that,
“British policies in Africa and Asia have aimed at strengthening English rather than promoting multilingualism, which is the social reality. Underlying British ELT have been key tenets – monolingualism, the native speaker as the ideal teacher, the earlier the better etc – which the same book diagnoses as fundamentally false. They underpin linguistic imperialism.”
Although this may to an extent seem true outside Europe, I firmly believe that projects like Language Rich Europe can help to tackle such a mind-set and reality. English will naturally continue to be a dominating second language around the globe. We should not try and oppose this reality and surely a supply of well-trained English language teachers and professionals will do nobody any harm. However, English needs to be promoted alongside other national, foreign, regional/minority and immigrant languages.
Through LRE we aim to promote greater cooperation between policy makers and practitioners in Europe in developing good policies and practices for multilingualism. Such polices will ensure that languages and cultural exchange continue to be promoted and encouraged at school, university and in broader society. We believe that this is essential if Europeans of all ages are to develop a broader international outlook and if Europe as a whole is to position itself successfully to do business with the world’s emerging economic powers in the 21st century.
John Knagg, British Council Senior Adviser Learning and Teaching responded to Phillipson with a letter,
“Governments worldwide want better access to English for their citizens to improve education, work and social mobility prospects – and they come to us for advice and support. While part of our mission is to develop a wider knowledge of English in the world, we do this within a wider aim of promoting the advancement of education.
English should add to a child’s linguistic heritage, not replace it. This is afterall, how we see foreign languages being taught in British schools.
Most of the 10 million teachers of English around the world are bilingual or multilingual non-native English speakers. Multilingualism gives people great advantages in their lives and their jobs, and we promote it as a value. Phillipson quotes his experience from before 1992 – the reality is different.”
You can read the full letter Multilingualism works on this website.