I don't know what my two sons will go onto to do when they grow up, but whatever it is languages will always be useful to them. Therefore I not only back the Speak to the Future campaign in my professional capacity, but also as a parent. I want my sons not only to study languages, but to have sufficient competence to be able to work in at least one language other than English.
My own school languages experiences ended at GCSE. Although I enjoyed studying French and Russian up to the age of 16, I decided to take other subjects at A-level. I could go on forever about my belief that the English education system narrows too much after the age of 16, but as a postgraduate student I picked up my French again at the University of Bristol's School of Continuing Education. Although I made substantial progress, I am aware that I am well short of being able to describe myself as 'fluent'. Nevertheless I have been pleased that I have been able to hold conservations with French-speakers- being complimented by a shop assistant when shopping in Paris is amongst the highlights.
For my own children I want more- in fact I demand more. By the age of 16 I want them to be able to do more than ask directions, book a hotel room or express opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of hitch-hiking. The Speak to the future campaign is one which has ambitions of all our young people. It is languages and other subjects, not languages verses other subjects.
The five key aims of the campaign are:
- Every language valued as an asset
This will encourage policy makers and citizens to recognise that the many languages used in the homes of UK citizens are a valuable resource for social cohesion and economic success.
- A coherent experience of languages for all children in primary school
This will introduce the learning of other languages and cultures as well as develop a better understanding of how the child’s own languages work.
- A basic working knowledge of at least two languages including English for every child leaving secondary school
This will equip every school leaver to live and work in a global society where confidence in learning and using other languages is a major advantage.
- Every graduate qualified in a second language
This will prepare future leaders in business, the professions, voluntary organisations, education and research to thrive and communicate confidently in complex global societies.
- An increase in the number of highly qualified linguists
This will fulfil the growing need for language professionals, especially English speaking interpreters and translators, and for teachers and researchers specialising in languages and cultures.