UK Language Learning

It is interesting that the UK is finally taking note of the importance of learning a language from an early age. As reported by the BBC, schools in England and Wales will introduce a foreign language from the age of 7 in primary schools from 2014, subject to public consultation. The Scottish government has previously said that Scottish school children will start learning a foreign language from the moment they start school, aged 5.

This is something I wholeheartedly support. I often feel that my struggle to learn French was directly linked to the fact that I only started learning when I was 11 years old and was only required to learn a foreign language until the age of 15. Being young, and not very good, I instantly dropped French after my standard grade, which is something I now bitterly regret.

Native English speakers often have the attitude “Oh, everyone speaks English anyway.” and I feel that this is why foreign languages have previously been seen to lack importance compared to other subjects. Of course, though, they are wrong.

What’s strange is that my mother, being fluent in French and Italian, had a golden opportunity to bring me up as a bilingual child. However, perhaps inadequate support, or a lack of knowledge of effective implementation, prevented her from doing this with me. If she had known that what she was teaching me was being backed up in the classroom, I wonder if she would have perhaps been more willing to give it a go.

I learnt a lot about my native language by using principals I learnt in French. Tense’s, for example, were something I was never taught in English class (English Literature was favoured over English language), but, they are something I became familiar with by learning their French equivalents.

I feel that by teaching children from a younger age, not only will there be a vastly larger number of British children who become Bilingual and take languages further than GCSE or Standard Grade, but standards of our written and spoken English will also improve. Indeed, in her book, Raising Bilingual Children (Mars Publishing 2003) Carey Myles states that “Bilingualism has been linked to a variety of positive cognitive benefits, including early reading, improved problem-solving skills, and higher scores on the SATs, including the math section.”

Working in a Language School, I am constantly surprised by students’ abilities and often ashamed at my own lack of a foreign language. What is common among the majority of our students, is that they have been learning English since they were very young and many of these students come to us aiming for fluency, not just to achieve conversational level. This will hopefully be the outcome for UK students.

Personally, I’d be happy if I could still have a basic conversation in French! Who knows, had I been caught young – perhaps I’d be doing that and more by now!

For me, there is a long way to go – so here’s hoping that the future generations of UK children will be able to go into a foreign hotel without asking “Do you speak English?” in years to come!

Jerry

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Why you should invest in Language Training in a Recession

An intensive language study class

Students enjoying the benefits of language training

It is well known and globally apparent that the world’s economy is not in the best of shape. As a result, people are forced to tighten their budgets, which often means that further investment in education is neglected.

However, this can often be short-sighted and a miscalculation that could be costly, both in times of economic hardship and in economic prosperity.

In the increasingly globalised world, where business is conducted in many different countries, companies are increasingly looking for those who can meet the demands of this by being bilingual. Indeed, simply typing in the term “bilingual” today into reed.co.uk, my search returned 350 jobs asking for bilingual applicants.

Careerbuilder.com wrote in 2009 that 31% of executives spoke 2 languages in a survey of over 12,000 respondents and in their search results, 6000 jobs were advertised for bilingual applicants. If you remember, 2009 was a particularly difficult year for employment after the global recession hit in 2008 – so it seems logical that applications speaking 2 languages held more of a chance of gaining employment than those who didn’t.

Of course, the case cannot be as black and white as this. However, it does not change the fact that today’s search or the search by Careerbuilder in 2009 created many job opportunities that could not be applied for by someone who speaks only one language.

When searching for jobs, have you ever seen the phrase “bilingual applicant preferred”? I know I have – and I didn’t apply. With my experience and skills to date, I feel that it is highly likely that someone would have comparable skills and also a second language. Which applicant do you think would secure the role? It’s highly likely that the bilingual applicant would have nudged me out of the field, leaving me to continue my search.

Thus, I would say that it is a justifiable case that there is probably more opportunity to gain a role in a tough economy if you are bilingual.

But, what about afterwards?

Well, one would assume, having gained employment at a difficult time, you will be suitably experienced by the time the economy recovers and companies start to grow again. Thus, you would be ideally placed to secure that promotion or, indeed, move to a higher role in a different organisation. You would have gained the experience that many people had failed to achieve in the same time frame and as such, could reap the benefits when purse strings are loosened.

In short, you are doing yourself a massive favour by learning another language.

Therefore, when considering what will bring the best value for your money, when you do not have much spare – it would be a good idea to invest in language study.

It could prove to be the best thing you did for your current and future prospects and see you weather any financial storm that may come in the future.