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Speak to the Future: the campaign for languages

http://www.speaktothefuture.org/

"The Speak to the Future campaign promotes the value of languages and language learning in the UK, and will raise the visibility of the issues with the public, the media, parliamentarians and policy-makers. It will make the case for a long-term commitment to achieving an improvement in the UK’s capacity in languages and a step change in language learning.
The five-year campaign, launched in February 2011, is supported by languages, cultural and business organisations, who are convinced of the importance of language learning for the future of our society, our citizens and our economy."

Here are the main campaign points:

  1. Every language valued as an asset
    This will encourage policy makers and citizens to recognise that the many languages used in the homes of UK citizens are a valuable resource for social cohesion and economic success. Download the briefing (PDF, 345 KB)
  2. A coherent experience of languages for all children in primary school
    This will introduce the learning of other languages and cultures as well as develop a better understanding of how the child’s own languages work.   Download the briefing (PDF, 357 KB)
  3. A basic working knowledge of at least two languages including English for every child leaving secondary school
    This will equip every school leaver to live and work in a global society where confidence in learning and using other languages is a major advantage. Download the briefing (PDF, 322 KB) - worth looking at this.
  4. Every graduate qualified in a second language
    This will prepare future leaders in business, the professions, voluntary organisations, education and research to thrive and communicate confidently in complex global societies. Download the briefing (PDF, 318 KB)
  5. An increase in the number of highly qualified linguists
    This will fulfil the growing need for language professionals, especially English speaking interpreters and translators, and for teachers and researchers specialising in languages and cultures. Download the briefing (PDF, 324 KB)

    One or two points occur: On point 3, I would be curious to know what "basic working knowledge" would mean. Maybe up to grade C or better at GCSE? On point 4, this seems to be working towards a GCSE qualification or equivalent for all university entrants. This is quite an ambitious goal, given where we are at present. If the EBac takes off it might become realistic. In any case, some holes could be filled by universities themselves. For example, UCL, which currently requires a GCSE in languages for entrance, makes exceptions, as I understand it, provided students take a catch-up course in MFL.

    Clearly, if universities raise the stakes by requiring second language competence for entry, then this will increase the numbers doing languages at secondary level significantly. I would still have some concern about this, since a good number of university entrants, very competent in some areas, may be very weak at language learning. Do we wish to force-feed students who are very reluctant or lacking aptitude simply to raise the status of languages?

    Thank you for this link, Professor Jones.

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