Following on from my rant last week this week I want to pose a question. I recently attended member’s day the Chartered Institute of Linguists, where there was much chat as to why as a country we do not produce speakers of foreign languages. Now of course there are many British linguists out there working as Translators, Interpreters, and many more varied posts, but where we seem to be failing most is that the general population do not value languages, see them as an asset, and in fact are not even able to use them to a conversational level. Taking a look at the rest of Europe this leaves us way behind, who wants to trade with the only people who can’t be bothered to exchange a few words in their native tongue?
Why do we have this language deficit? Well I have heard many suggestions: is it our inherent Britishness, the fact that we are embarrassed about making mistakes, reserved and generally less outgoing than our European counterparts? (I have been accused of being very non British by many a foreigner because I like to wave my hands around a lot when I talk, and as those of you who’ve read previous blogs know I’ve shaken off more than one howler in my time!).
Could it be that we don’t start teaching languages until much later than most of Europe (a definite yes to this one from me). Is it that we don’t insist on languages as part of higher education, when many other countries do (and indeed years ago we did). Are we just plain lazy thinking English is the language of the world anyway? Do we have useless teachers? (On the whole I’d say most teachers I know are very committed!) Is the curriculum lacking? (Most definitely). There you have it a whole host of reasons and I’m sure there are more…please feel free to add your own suggestions! Until next time ….