Time for a national debate on language learning


A recent Guardian article has highlighted concerns about the fact that most of us living in Anglophone countries don’t speak anything but English well. We insist on sustaining a monolingual society despite the UK being home to many different ethnic communities with their own languages. London and Birmingham are prime examples of this.

We are citizens of an international world where the distances that separate countries mean nothing because communication is instant on the internet. However, English material on the web has fallen from 51% to only 29% in recent years. By contrast, the amount of internet material in Chinese rose from only 5% to 20 %.

The Guardian is bringing to our attention the fact that English is no longer enough. Around the globe, people are learning English as a second language, but they are learning other languages as well. These are the growing languages of trade and business; Chinese, Russian, Arabic and Spanish are some significant examples. Don’t we risk being left behind on the world stage?

Research suggests the UK is missing out on contracts worth up to £21 billion a year because of the lack of language skills in the workforce. Considering that 72% of UK international trade is with non-English-speaking countries, is it not time we ask ourselves, can we as a nation afford for our economy to collapse? Can we really alienate ourselves from the rest of the world and still survive?

The Guardian, along with The British Academy, are campaigning to increase public interest in and awareness of the impact language learning has on British society. According to professor Michael Worton, “Unless the decline in modern language learning is reversed, Anglophone Britons will become one of the most monolingual peoples in the world, with severe consequences for our economy, for business competitiveness, for international reputation and mobility, and for community cohesion at home.”

See more by

Connect with Oxford Home Schooling