Scots Urged to Learn Foreign Languages

Stewart Paterson in eveningtimes.co.uk, June 21, 2013:

f you had to rely on a Google translation of the above introduction, don’t worry because that is where I went to check it was correct.

It says, ‘This week I would like to speak about languages’.

French, or any other language other than English for that matter, is not my strongest point and in that respect I am far from alone in this country.

Holyrood’s European Committee has just given its report on its inquiry into foreign language learning in primary schools.

It recommends we teach one foreign language from primary one right through to secondary school.

Wow. Radical or what?

How many times have you been left stumped in another country when faced with someone who does not speak English?

How many times have you heard someone from these islands speak in a slow, monosyllabic, child-like voice trying to get their point across to a native on a foreign holiday?

Then they bemoan the fact the person does not speak English, without a hint of irony.

As a nation we need to drastically improve our modern language capability.

The committee rightly raised concerns about the ability to deliver the ambition of teaching two foreign languages.

From where we are today it will take decades to get up to speed with most of our European neighbours.

It will require a massive investment in training primary school teachers to have the capability required to deliver effective language teaching to primary pupils that will allow further study.

There is also a need for a willingness to change the attitudes of some people that there is less of a need for our people to learn a foreign language because so many others speak ours.

This lazy attitude is holding people back because learning a language provides for a better educated population.

It will also make us more outward in our outlook, and mean more people will be able to grasp opportunities in a global world.

The benefits for foreign trade and investment are obvious in an international economy and the more people we have speaking other languages the better.

There is a certain irony that Glasgow is preparing to host the Commonwealth Games next year welcoming people from all over the world many of whom speak English because their ancestors were forced to speak a foreign language, English, as a result of colonialism.

The independence referendum means other countries in Europe and beyond are taking an interest in Scotland and following the constitutional debate with interest, many by reading our news online, in English.

It is about time we made a serious effort to catch up, even if it does take 25 years.

Au revoir, adios, arrivederci.

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