Pass it on: September  

Well, let’s hear it for teachers of modern foreign languages! Now all focus will be on us Brits finally shaking off the ‘it’s English or nothing’ tag and getting on to speaking with others in their own tongue.  A posse of MPs called the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages (no I hadn’t heard of them either) have published a Manifesto for Languages ‘pressing the case for improving our linguistic skills base’.

In other words: speak other languages better and more widely. Business is offering a doom-laden future if we don’t, because the signs are already there: the Manifesto warns ‘jobs are going unfilled; ‘language skills are gaining rather than losing their relevance (according to Chatham House director Dr Robin Niblett) and the next generation must be ‘born global with language skills’ (says the British Chamber of Commerce).

The APPG is leading a call to all political parties to support a Framework for National Recovery in Language Learning in their 2015 General Election manifestos which should include:

A long term commitment to transforming the reputation of UK citizens as poor linguists;

High quality language learning for all children throughout the UK from age 7;

A goal for every child to have a high quality language qualification by the end of secondary education;

A commitment to maintaining and developing UK expertise in modern languages in university language departments.

The ball is already rolling with a wide-ranging seminar organised by the Westminster Higher Education Forum on December 4th which will explore policy priorities for encouraging more UK students to take up modern foreign languages – from primary school through to Further and Higher Education.  It takes place as schools implement the new National Curriculum, with learning a foreign language becoming compulsory from age seven.

Delegates are expected to be policymakers from across Government departments, along with heads of languages departments, senior languages academics and admissions tutors, Erasmus coordinators as well as finance directors; alongside students’ union representatives, schools, colleges, language tutors, teaching unions, businesses, charities and other parties interested in these important issues. Très bon!