From education to employment

Language Learning Correspondent Joana Lage

As part of the programme National Languages (2002) “Languages for All: Languages for Life”, a new research was conducted by the Learning Skills Development Agency (LSDA). The report, “Modern Foreign Languages in a Vocational Context”, was launched recently and indicates that there is a need for a “broader spectrum of language provision” in this area.

The Research Details

The LSDA is an agency that initiates several research projects every year with the aim of recognizing the failures and success stories in the education sector. After the acknowledgement made by the research reports, it is then possible to reform and improve the quality of post-16 education and training in the United Kingdom. The “Modern Foreign Languages in a Vocational Context” research examined the process of languages” education in the vocational sector and especially looked at its provision in terms of quantity and also quality.

There were 131 replies to questionnaires received from colleges and work-based learning providers. Furthermore, several case studies were carried out to analyse in detail and find out how languages are being integrated into the vocational courses. The places used for case studies were the following: Barnfield College, Bedforshire; Newham Sixth Form College, East London; Newcastle-under-Lyme College, Staffordshire; and ITS Training Services, Felixstowe, Suffolk.

The Colleges and Training Services Answers

The languages education process faces several hold-ups everyday, in various areas. There are many factors that do not encourage an easy learning of foreign languages and the understanding and acceptance of the importance of languages in our world. A central problem has always been the teaching; there is a need for new and more effective methods so that the end results will be positive.

The Newham Sixth Form College introduced a new tactic: every year they hold a European languages conference where students can meet professionals, who then explain the everyday use of languages and its usefulness in their jobs. Furthermore, this college runs classes with languages, such as Spanish, French, Mandarin, Urdu, Arabic and Bengali which offers a wide variety and is then easier to please the diverse interests of their students.

The Newcastle-under-Lyme College also has a different promotion of languages; they show a video, which explains how local companies that have branches all over the world, demand staff with language skills. In an era of globalization and an international business market, it is essential that more and more people can master many languages to be able to have higher employment possibilities.

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Barnfield College runs a course for IT practitioners, which has Spanish as a compulsory module. This strategy raises the students” chances of finding a job and their abilities to compete in an international market, where a lot of call centres are based abroad and consequently the recruitment need for people with language skills is high. Mastering languages is then opening new “doors” for their futures. In the area of shipping there is a general lack of staff with language proficiencies which can lead to misunderstandings and confusion between employers, employees and even the customers.

The ITS Training Service in Suffolk admit it is essential to be able to speak languages, especially in the shipping business, but the school is facing several obstacles in the teaching of languages. There is a shortage of time within the training programme to include language classes and also adapting the teaching to the specific needs of each individual.

Nevertheless, the company is taking new actions to overtake these problems. They have developed a new foundation programme which integrates modern foreign languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Italian and also Bulgarian, as component modules. These are the languages that employers are most likely to demand for the reason that nowadays a lot of businesses are conducted with European and overseas clients.

Case Studies Proving the Point

The research in each of the schools confirmed and reinforced the idea that the main factor to the success of languages teaching and learning is motivation and inspiration. Each school has different strategies, such as the diverse and innovative teaching methods and creative promotion of languages, and they all demonstrate to the students the use, practicality and benefits of mastering foreign languages.

In general, the report “Modern Foreign Languages in a Vocational Context” demonstrates how it is possible to change the present scenario and raise and dignify the status of language education in the United Kingdom.

Joana Lage, Language Skills Correspondent

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