The importance of modern languages in schools

Benito Abramo

Benito Abramo is a freelance writer and translator who highly recommends London Translations for translation services for both schools and businesses. He regularly blogs about foreign languages and Italian cooking. He has previously worked for E.U. as a translator and a speech writer. He is of Italian heritage and speaks four languages fluently.

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Much has been made recently about the importance of STEM subjects, but what about languages? Writer and translator Benito Abramo takes a look at why the teaching of modern languages is so crucial.

Speaking a second language can give students a massive head start in many areas of their adult lives. Not only can it open doors career-wise, it can also introduce people to all kinds of new cultures and experiences. For this reason, learning modern languages should be considered an important part of every school curriculu

Playing catch up

"Students can ask Glass to tell them how to speak phrases in another language, hear the pronunciation, and see it written on the screen."

However, the general consensus is that schools around Britain are playing catch up when it comes to providing youngsters with a solid grounding in foreign languages. Numerous studies have suggested that the UK lags behind its neighbours in Europe in terms of foreign language skills. Pupils in Britain tend to start learning languages later than average and are taught for fewer hours per week. In addition, there has been a decline in the number of students who take modern foreign languages at GCSE level. Highlighting this fact, there was a drop of almost half (49 per cent) in the number of pupils taking a GCSE in German between 2004 and 2011. So, what is being done about it?"

The start of the 2014/15 academic year saw a huge overhaul in the primary school curriculum and one of the most radical changes was to make foreign languages a compulsory subject. As of the beginning of this academic year, schools have been required to provide foreign language teaching across key stage 2. Now, students aged between seven and 11 are expected to reach a high standard of written communication in one of seven languages. These include French, German, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, Latin and Greek.

It’s true that prior to the changes, the majority of primary schools were already providing language teaching within class time. However, there were major differences in approach. While some pupils were receiving fairly rigorous language teaching, others were merely getting the basics. Now, all schools have to ensure they provide structured language lessons.

The role of technology

Today’s language lessons can be a far cry from those of previous eras. With an abundance of technology at their disposal, teachers can take a more creative and dynamic approach to these sessions. For example, some schools use video conferencing technology to communicate with partner schools in other countries. This enables children to interact directly with their foreign peers to discuss topics, use their vocabulary and generally increase their confidence.
The web also brings other benefits. For example, to help give their lessons a sense of relevance and to garner interest among pupils, teachers can analyse social media updates made in foreign languages on websites such as Twitter.

The importance of foreign languages for future careers

In today’s increasingly globalised world, the benefits associated with learning a foreign language can scarcely be underestimated, and the sooner children start learning, the more successful they are likely to be in this endeavour.

Youngsters who develop the ability to write and speak in second or even third languages may benefit from significantly improved job prospects when they enter the world of work. A premium is now placed upon job candidates who can speak more than one language and who understand different cultures. For example, an engineer who can speak German or Japanese alongside English will see all sorts of extra opportunities open up before them, as will a salesperson who can speak Spanish or Chinese.

No matter what sort of career a student chooses to pursue once their studies are over, learning a second language can give them a real head start.

How do you promote the learning of MFL in your school? Let us know below.

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