From education to employment

Isabella Moore, CEO of CILT on A level language results

Figures released today which show a halt in the decline in the number of students taking A levels in languages are to be welcomed as a sign that efforts to put across the value of language learning are starting to take effect. Increases in numbers sitting Spanish and German A levels are particularly encouraging. Figures on applications for university courses with languages are also up this year, with applications for German increasing by 20%.

But there is no complacency about these figures. It is recognised that much more still needs to be done to recover numbers lost to languages over the past ten years to redress the imbalance in gender and social class of this countrys linguists, and above all to ensure that young people are properly prepared for the challenges of the workplace in an age of globalisation. The vast majority of todays teenagers will encounter speakers of other languages in their working lives and competence in another language will prepare them well for both the communication and the intercultural challenges they will face.

There is a severe shortage of specialist linguists with English as first language to cover our growing translating and interpreting requirements. The EU’s Interpreting Unit has called for urgent action to redress this shortage, which is impeding the work of international institutions and causing meetings to be cancelled.

We note the CBIs suggestion that Science and Maths undergraduates should receive a golden carrot and suggest that if this proposal is taken up, language courses should also qualify for this incentive, having been identified as strategically important and vulnerable.

A vast amount of activity is already under way to increase take up of languages. In particular, HEFCE and the DCSF are funding the £8 million Routes into Languages programme, which is set to boost local, regional and national efforts to increase and widen participation in language learning from this September. The three-year project will support the national role of HE languages as a motor of economic and civic regeneration.

Isabella MooreCEOCILT, the National Centre for Languages

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