Languages a Vital Subject; the Teaching of French and German Is in Crisis in Both Schools and Universities. the Government Is Threatening to Take Modern Languages out of the Core Curriculum. Zannah Lewis Spoke to a Birmingham School, University and Business about the Importance of Languages
Byline: Zannah Lewis
A key question - what's the point of wasting time learning a foreign language when, everywhere you go, people speak English?
It can be hard to argue with a 14-year-old at the best of times but Patrick Amieli, head of modern languages at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, in Kings Heath, says he struggles to find an answer to that particular question.
'The one time people realise the importance of language learning is when they get a job that needs a language. When they are promised a salary increase they find the motivation to learn - but in their 20s and 30s they are not so quick to learn,' he said.
In its Language Learning document published earlier this year, the Government said: 'For too long in this country there has been an assumption that because English is spoken in many parts of the world, there is no need for English speakers to learn other languages. As a country we do not value languages.' Yet the same Government has suggested taking modern languages out of the core national curriculum for post-14 education from September 2004.
Given this backdrop, is it any wonder children are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the thought of studying what many consider to be a redundant subject?
'There is definitely more enthusiasm in France to learn English than we see here,' said Mr Amieli.
'It's a social thing. In continental Europe, the culture is influenced by English language films, music and so on. We don't have that overseas influence here, which makes it hard to motivate the children. We end up discussing everyday life in English which, for a group of teenage boys, is not that inspiring.'
By comparison, the importance attached to learning English on the Continent is such that most children in France take it up at seven-years old.
All German primary schools will be required to provide English lessons from 2004. …