Foreign language students are a law unto themselves. Abandoning our “green and pleasant lands” for more exotic and exciting locations, they often dominate the job-seeking world due to extensive experience, confidence and sheer ruthlessness. In fact, within a year of the completion of a languages degree, 97% find employment; of that percentage, 90% of language students studying abroad find employment within a mere six months. Foreign language degrees promise to “enable the progressive acquisition of transferable skills which can be applied to other areas of study and to the world of work”. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that these graduates are almost guaranteed higher starting salaries, and on the whole, those who are lucky enough to have studied abroad find it much easier to adapt to different working environments, ensuring them more stability in the workplace.

Over the past ten years, the linguistic ability of our pupils enrolled in schools throughout the UK has decreased enormously. Since the UK Labour Government made foreign language study optional for 14-16 year olds in 2004, the number of English-speaking students taking French and German for GCSE has fallen by an astounding 50%. In the years leading up to this change, French was one of the top 10 most studied subjects in Britain. It has, sadly, now fallen off that list and joined the list of subjects a student is least likely to enjoy and consequently pursue. There is a definitive lack of native French-speaking teachers in schools since this downfall, which has no doubt contributed significantly to the disinclination to study it.

Speaking to The Independent, Michael Gove has expressed his concern that the lack of linguistic ability in UK students will leave Britain falling behind in the global market: “Asian countries massively outstrip us in the growth of scientific learning, and they are already reaping the cultural and economic benefits.” On the other hand, Mark Oaten, formerly an MP for the Liberal Democrats, was recorded on Sky news stating that “the international language of business is English”. However, after a public outcry it was determined that without successful communication through the exchange of different languages, many industries who rely primarily on Foreign trade for profit would lose their places in the Global Market; that said, what equality would there be in the business world if English was the only language spoken?

It has been said that there are many UK students who do not have a firm grasp on the grammatical structures of their own native language, let alone other languages. With the arrival of the likes of Urban Dictionary, perhaps it is to be expected. Arguably, the best option would be to address this issue before confronting multilingualism. Basic English language lessons in Secondary School are now deemed somewhat less essential than English literature classes, though perhaps such a stalemate was reached due to the assumption that students would remember the framework built around a language spoken every day. It must be said that true fluency in any language lies in one basic method: phonetics, without which learning a foreign language such as French becomes significantly harder.
Bilingualism gives one an international perspective. Perhaps this is the reason many of those who have reached the top of the “food chain” claim immunity in the business world. The social benefits of multilingualism range from the ability to explore and understand other cultures in depth, to improved memory, visual-spatial skills, and creativity. In the US alone, a fifth of those over the age of five reported speaking a language other than English in the home environment in 2007; in a society within which people are constantly competing for success, the monolingual have an exceptionally lower chance of reaching their goals in the business world. Should bilingualism in children be an option, or mandatory? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.]




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