104 Views

Failing to learn languages causes more than just embarrassment

There’s nothing quite like that sinking feeling of shame when trying to string together some broken French or German when abroad, and being met with immaculately spoken English. Pity has been taken upon you and all you can think is ‘was it that obvious?’ It seems it’s not just us that realise how bad the English are at learning languages, but also everyone else in Europe. Many a time I have squirmed inside as somebody from abroad apologises for their poor English when in fact they probably speak it better than I do. Embarrassingly, a survey in 2004 found that only one in ten UK workers could speak a foreign language, and less than 5% could count to twenty in a language other than their own.

The learning of languages in schools needs to be addressed seriously. The current decline is worse than it’s ever been – this year French GCSE fell out of the top ten most studied subjects for the first time, with less than one in four students now studying it. The fact that we are so poor at learning foreign languages goes a lot further than being a bit embarrassed when ordering a drink on holiday – in fact, the detrimental effects go a lot deeper than that.

The Centre of Information for Language Teaching states that we are “letting our young people down” due to the fact that they can “opt out” of language learning as young as the age of thirteen. This is true, but the problem surely comes from not dropping the subject early, but from not beginning it from a younger age. In some countries, such as Norway and Luxembourg, foreign language teaching begins at the age of six.  Attempts were made by Labour to make language learning compulsory in primary schools from the age of seven, legislation that was due to begin in September 2011. Unfortunately, in the run up to the election they were defeated on this, and the Coalition Government have yet to announce any similar plans.

The Independent newspaper has made some progress since the summer of trying to open up the debate on the crisis of language learning in UK schools. It seems strange then, that they would support the irate xenophobic rant of their columnist Julie Burchill which appeared in the paper just this last week. Observing gleefully that 66% of Europeans now speak English, she derided Luxembourg for being the only country not to teach English, but instead German, as a first foreign language. “You’ll probably never have to beg them not to murder your entire family again for looking at you funny – so give that nasty, phlegmy tongue up and learn English like the rest of your continental cousins.” This bizarre, offensive attitude seems pointless and a deliberate attempt to be provocative, and unfortunately adds nothing to a serious debate about our need to catch up with our European peers in terms of being able to converse with them in a tongue other than our own.

Our lack of language skills is set to cause us problems when entering the international jobs market, but also weakens our position further as the UK begins to lose its position as a leader in education. Experts have warned that severe cuts could see the UK falling rapidly from its current position as the second strongest university system in the world. Other countries may be in the same dire economic straits as us, but they have chosen to invest in higher education rather than cut it, recognising the importance of universities for their future economy. So why then are we saddled with a universities minister that states that students are a ‘burden on the taxpayer that had to be tackled’? Figures also suggest that between 2000 and 2008, the UK has gone from third to fifteenth in numbers of students graduating compared with other industrial countries. Although the number of students going to university has risen year on year, it has not gone up as rapidly as in some other countries, such as Finland, where 80% of young women now go to university – the highest proportion in the world. This suggests a lull in social mobility in our country, if nothing else.

The worrying reality that the UK is seeing a decline in its university system compared with its European acquaintances, coupled with the fact that our communication with other nationalities is so poor puts forward a worrying vision of the UK as a country becoming increasingly isolated and afraid to move forward.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
542 views1
Campus News
542 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
77 views
Arts
77 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
112 views
Arts
112 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
109 views
Arts
109 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
136 views
Arts
136 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
149 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
159 views
Arts
159 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
153 views
Arts
153 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
247 views
Campus News
247 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
117 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
231 views
Arts
231 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
151 views
Arts
151 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
224 views
Artist Focus
224 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
159 views
Interview
159 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
224 views
Arts
224 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
254 views
Arts
254 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
291 views
Arts
291 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
202 views
Artist Focus
202 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
215 views
Books
215 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
274 views
Science
274 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
275 views
News
275 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…