It would seem that the young people of Britain prefer studying sciences and economics to foreign languages. The latest A-levels figures show that foreign language studies have fallen to their lowest levels in years. This raised concern among universities and industry, and rightly so.

How can the UK be a major player in the world economy when its future captains of industry can’t communicate with the rest of the world?

Nobody denies the importance of learning new languages, but Britain seems to remain unconcerned. As long as English is seen as the default global language, why would they need to bother?

I want to suggest a solution to this problem

The first step of solving a problem is to admit its existence. A generation of monolingual Brits in a world where global communication is becoming ever more important could be a disaster for the economy and culture of Britain. Most non-English speaking countries already insist on their children learning at least one other language; their governments realise that keeping their population isolated by language is a huge error.

So why do British children avoid studying languages?

  1. Languages are complex subjects and may be unpredictable, unlike maths or other exact sciences.
  2. Languages may be marked too harshly, which leads to pupils performing lower overall, and nobody wants this.
  3. Pupils might not consider language learning useful, due to the overall notion that everybody else speaks English.
  4. The ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude is still prevalent in Britain. So trying something publicly, like speaking in a foreign language in front of your peers, can cause a lot of embarrassment.

How can we encourage British teenagers to learn other languages?

Well, even though learning a second language is optional for the British schoolchildren, it is still an option. Let’s MAKE them choose it. Young people, regardless of nationality, are highly impressionable. They generally do whatever they consider cool.

So let’s make language learning cool.

Learning a language is like a role play, you could be:

  • A French artisan discussing philosophy and the meaning of life
  • Volunteering in Africa helping people in turbulent areas
  • A Chinese entrepreneur at the forefront of new technology
  • Exploring the jungles of Indonesia discovering new plants and animals
  • A Latin American rapper bringing new blends of music to the world

The joy of language learning lies in the freedom it gives you as a person. Speaking a different language gives your mind a change of clothes.

How do you think we can make learning languages cool again? Please let us know in the comments section below.