‘The useless modern foreign languages such as French’. That lovely quote was in an article I was reading in the Independent last week. ‘Ridiculous’ was my first thought (and still is) but let’s put it into context. The quote came from former government minister Chris Bryant when he was (we assume) trying to defend the actions of the previous Labour government’s failures to increase foreign language learning to school children. Chris Bryant wasn’t saying that languages shouldn’t be taught; on the contrary he was encouraging the teaching of foreign languages but just the ‘useful’ ones which he quoted as ‘Mandarin, Spanish, and Portuguese‘!
We’ve blogged before about the previous government lobbying to get languages such as Mandarin on the school curriculum but what amazed me was that a language like French that is so poplar and widely spoken was branded as useless by Chris! In our job as recruiters we see lots of jobs that specifically require French, which certainly shows it is not useless. More to the point shouldn’t we be encouraging the learning of languages whether it be French, German or Mandarin?
As pointed out in the article ‘according to some estimates it [French] has 265 million native or second language speakers, more than Arabic for instance, and is the most important trading language in large parts of Africa and elsewhere’. Clearly then in our opinion French is not useless and will continue to be an important language for the foreseeable future regardless of what an ex minister claims!!
There has been a lot of controversy lately over Ed Balls’ announcement that all children should be given the opportunity to learn Mandarin, the world’s most popular language. Critics called it a gimmick, saying that there wouldn’t be enough teachers and that the government should instead concentrate on addressing the lack of mainstream language learning. Continue reading
It’s a widely held belief that Britons aren’t the best at learning languages. But it seems that the Irish share our lack of linguistic ability. The Irish Independent reports that according to the latest Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey, over 23% of employers complain that Irish graduates lack fluency in a foreign language. The article also says that Chinese and Japanese are growing in popularity in Irish schools, with these nations becoming increasingly significant in the business world.
Professor Fan Hong of the Institute of Chinese studies at UCC is working to try and get Chinese taught in more Irish schools. He says: “Mandarin will become an important language for Ireland in the 21st century. People have to realise that if you want to find a job, you have to be able to communicate in other languages. It may not be necessary to learn the language so that you speak it fluently. But some basic knowledge will certainly help people. Mandarin is now a major language of business.”
Both in Ireland and in the UK there does not seem to be enough emphasis on the importance of language learning due to English being the lingua franca. Teaching languages like Chinese would be a great move forward as at Euro London we see a constant demand for candidates with Asian languages. More work like this needs to be done to get children learning languages at an earlier age and to encourage them to continue with their language studies.
If you’re a company interested in promoting language learning then visit CILT – Euro London have been involved with the Business Language Champions project for 2 years now and it’s a fantastic way to show young people just what opportunities languages can bring.