FFE Magazine

Campaign wants Brits to break language barrier

by FFE EU News staff

One thousand words in a new language – that’s all embassies and language institutions are asking everyone in the UK to learn in a new campaign.

With the support of the British Council, the Confederation of British Industry, the British Academy, embassies and language teaching bodies, the “1,000 Words Campaign” was launched by Speak to the Future to improve the language skills of Brits to make them more competitive in international trade.

Vicky Gough of the British Council said “Speaking another language is crucial to understanding another culture … let’s overturn our poor record in language learning and show that we are ready to engage with a multilingual world.”

The new campaign wants everyone in the UK to be able to hold a simple conversation with speakers of another language. It also wants to confront the idea that only the brightest can learn a new language.

This year’s A-level exam results show that the number of people taking French and German fell by 10% and 11% respectively. Meanwhile, trends in the number of Spanish learners saw a rise by 4%. Those who are taking up General Certificate of Secondary Education also increased, reversing the downward trend.

These results have been linked to the introduction of the EBacc league table which measures the percentage of students getting a grade of A*-C in foreign language and other core subjects. But Teresa Tinsley of Speak to the Future clarified that EBacc only focused on students who achieve good grades, whereas businesses need people in all levels of the workforce to speak with high language skills.

She said “Top managers often have language skills but in fact staff whose jobs involve chasing invoices or buying stock abroad also need to speak another language.”

Bernadette Holmes, the director of the campaign, said “The idea that everyone can learn the basics of another language is both realistic and attainable.

“We are not expecting instant fluency. Yet if everyone were capable of at least 1,000 words in a new language, social attitudes and economic prospects would be significantly enhanced – young people would be better prepared for the challenges of globalisation and our cultural and intellectual levels would be raised.”

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