As the kids and (hopefully refreshed) teachers head back to school this week, we thought we’d cast our minds back to our own years in education, where our love of language began.
How does the classroom of today compare? In a world where we are already miles closer to our foreign counterparts, thanks to the internet and internationalisation, do you think we speak more or fewer languages?
As it happens, we found out that only half of UK pupils study a language at secondary school level, and only a third (33%) obtain a grade C (minimum accepted pass) or above. But, when we consider modern languages were removed from the compulsory curriculum in 2004, can you blame them? German grammar doesn’t have quite the same appeal as a chemical experiment. We get it.
Compare this with a country such as France where it’s compulsory to study two languages at this level , you could say the stereotypically reluctant Brits are lagging behind. It is certainly a well-established stereotype that there’s no need to branch out when your native language is also the supposed lingua franca. And yet, according to studies, only 47% of all Europeans speak a language other than their own, with English representing 40% of this and French coming a close second with 20%.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom! Language learning is still on the up, albeit at a slow rate, and the number of children learning Spanish in the UK has risen considerably in recent years – especially now that it is taught in primary schools.
Why is that?
As language lovers, we know all too well that learning languages opens up a whole new world of opportunities and relationships. We can’t imagine our multilingual WIT team any other way! So, in case you (or your mini-me) need(s) some convincing, here’s just a few reasons why learning a language can help you gain a new soul!
1. Brain training: learning a new language helps keep the brain active. It improves your memory and concentration skills and can also help prevent Alzheimer’s.
2. Decision-making: according to Chicago University, people reason more logically when obliged to speak in a foreign language, even if they know that specific language perfectly. This means that it helps with analytical and logical thinking. So, if you need a look at the bigger picture, why not try making your decisions in French?
3. Authentic cultural experiences: language is the key to a different culture. It helps you get to know and understand the ‘other’ on its own terms. Reading Harry Potter or Le Petit Prince in their intended form is surely reason enough in itself? This, in turn, opens your mind and helps you understand different points of view.
4. Professional opportunities: language skills are often a valuable asset to businesses operating in a global marketplace. Young people equipped with modern languages are opening up real opportunities both at home and abroad – take our team of translators for example…
5. Confidence boost: setting and achieving goals will give any language learner a real sense of achievement. However, languages come with the particularity that, sooner or later, you will need to practise with a native – who could be a new colleague, neighbour or friend. Taking the plunge can sometimes even mean you develop a new branch of personality. Who knows, maybe your jokes are funnier in German, you just don’t know it yet!
So, this academic year, why not set yourself a language-based goal?
By Amy Reid - WIT Account Manager