From education to employment

Research Tests Benefits for Multilingualism in Educational Development

“I going to tea” or “I am going to tea” are both equally comprehendible, though the latter statement would be given the credit of correct grammatical English.

English is undoubtedly the universal language, understood and accepted in any form almost everywhere. But, in a multi-lingual environment like Britain’s, the country’s own language has undergone major transformations and English alone is not playing a very significant role in building students” future careers.

This is why the importance of other languages in a students” future career has been brought into focus with a new study on the teaching patterns of different languages across the UK. The study suggests that ethnic minority communities make provision for teaching 61 different languages across the UK and mainstream primary and secondary schools offer at least 35 languages, either as part of the curriculum or as part of after-hours provision.

Recognising the Linguistic Talents

While nearly 40,000 students gained a qualification in a community language this year (the largest numbers in Urdu, Chinese, Irish and Arabic) few providers considered these skills as valuable for students” future careers.

The study found that the linguistic map of Britain is changing, with multilingualism spreading beyond typically multi-ethnic areas over 100 languages are now spoken in Scotland and nearly as many in Wales. In Wrexham, a local authority with very few community language speakers until recently, at least 25 languages are now in use, including Portuguese, Polish, Tagalog and Shona.

The Vast Potential

There is vast potential for harnessing these diverse linguistic talents of pupils, according to Isabella Moore, Director of CILT, the National Centre for Languages, who said: “About 9 % of our secondary school children and over 10 % of primary children already speak another language at home, and many more have one in their family background. By encouraging students to develop their existing knowledge we will be building up an important skills base, as well as raising educational achievement.”

However, there still remains the need for a strong initiative from the education sector to realise this prospect. Joanna McPake of Stirling University who led the research study said: “Our survey has shown that schools do not always appreciate the value of maintaining and developing language skills other than English. In addition, both mainstream and complementary schools underestimate the practical value of other languages for students” future careers.”

The CILT have been doing their part. In July, CILT announced the thirteen UK winners of the European Award for Languages, seven of these have been identified for their innovative work in particular sectors or language and will receive an additional funding from this year’s sponsors. Prizes were presented CILT patron Sir Trevor McDonald on the recent European Day of Languages.

Aakriti Kaushik, International Education Correspondent

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