The need for an increase in the number of children learning languages has been a hot topic in the last five years. This is partially due to research that shows that 75% of all people in the United Kingdom are monolingual.
This demonstrates a supply that is at odds with the demand for languages, particularly from an employment perspective. It is believed that 41% of businesses feel that knowledge of a foreign language is beneficial for staff to possess, whilst 28% believe that this could help their company grow overseas.
Recently, Scotland announced an increase in funding for the provision of foreign language learning, with the Education In Scotland Secretary stating
“Language learning has been in the news on a regular basis in the last five years. Stories have continually shown an increase in the demand for language skills in the United Kingdom and across the world, as well as a marked decline in those possessing the requisite skills.”
The Benefits of Language Learning
The benefits of language learning are twofold: first of all it can help a child in their future careers; more generally, there is also strong evidence that it can help boost overall brain power.
These two factors mean that there are a wide range of benefits to learning a language at school and beyond, which means it is important that suitable language resources are invested in schools.
The Languages That Need Teaching
The British Council has published a list of 10 languages where skills need to be developed to protect the future of the United Kingdom. These are Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish, and Japanese.
The diversity in the languages in the list reflects changing global economics. Whilst demand from businesses for speakers of traditional European languages such as French, German, and Spanish remains strong, it has declined in comparison with more global languages, and Asian languages.
The benefits of language learning are clear, and it will be interesting to see if programs to boost engagement have an impact in the next decade.