Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Language learning no luxury?

On Tuesday, I attended a discussion at the British Academy on language learning in British schools and universities, or rather, on the decline thereof, Language Learning No Luxury.

The decline has been dramatic, indeed: Dick Hudson, one of the panellists, presented a series of slides illustrating the falling interest in languages at all levels, from secondary schools to the higher education and research institutions. He and other speakers gave a plethora of reasons for this decline: boring curriculum, bad teachers, wrong methodology, lack of funding, elitist perception etc etc.

But what about mere usefulness? How useful are language skills in the business world? Or, to put it the other way around, what kind of jobs requiring language skills are advertised?

A quick Internet search of the top London recruitment agencies specialising, as they proudly put it, in multilingual recruitment, yielded the following results. The most frequently required positions with languages are PA and (tele)sales!

Hardly a rewarding career for a graduate.


Hunkston said...

A friend of mine who recently moved to England has been attempting to learn English and she is finding it quite difficult, she already speaks 2 languages (French and Spanish) and claims English is the hardest to learn. With all our silent letters and words with multiple meanings English is tough to understand. Inspired by my friend I decided to learn French as second language to help better myself!

schultzie said...

The biggest issue with the drop-off in language learning in schools is the emphasis in schools (and the curriculum designers) on teaching onl what is useful. The concept of learning for pure enjoyment still exists for some but it requires a matching attitude in the teacher AND in the syllabus.

Perhaps it doesn't matter as those who care will find a way to learn outside the confines of schools.