Can’t speak, won’t speak: Britain’s attitude to foreign language learning

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Can’t speak, won’t speak: Britain’s attitude to foreign language learning

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The British Council is responsible for promoting UK cultural relations and educational opportunities abroad. At the end of 2015 it launched a campaign calling on people in this country to make learning a foreign language their New Year’s resolution for 2016.

This was in response to the disappointing decline in the numbers opting to study languages at GCSE, A-level and in university. Importantly, a Populus survey in October 2015 revealed that 42% of those surveyed indicated that they would be keen to revisit a language that they had studied at school.

One place that this skills shortage is going to be felt acutely is in businesses who either trade internationally, or plan to do so.   The CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2014 revealed that around 65% of UK firms identified a need for foreign language skills.

Foreign language learning in an English speaking world

English is the mother tongue of hundreds of millions of people. Add to that the  hundreds of millions more who speak English as a second language and you can see why some people believe that British can manage without learning  another language. Furthermore, this number of English language speakers world wide is going to increase rather than decrease in the future.

However, Britain has always traded internationally and has customers all over the world. Being able to communicate with your customers in their own languages is still a valuable, business critical skill in the 21st century. If you are unable to communicate with the people you do business with you are at a distinct disadvantage. Other countries with a more positive perception of foreign language learning benefit from producing educated professionals who are not only experts in their fields, but are able to communicate in a variety of languages in addition to their own.

Furthermore, following the decision to leave the European Union in 2016 Britain, English will no longer be one of the EU’s official languages and if we are to continue to trade in any way with the countries that are located nearest to our own, language skills are likely to become particularly important.

Finally, Britain will be compelled to negotiate its own trade agreements and do more business with suppliers all over the globe. So, there is every reason to believe that the demand from businesses for more translators is likely to increase, not decrease in the future.

Language Translation Services

This means that the role of professional language translation services are secure for the foreseeable future. We may see an increase in the number of linguists joining the workforce and companies may well decide to train their staff in the languages they need most. However, there is no substitute for the services of a trained professional linguist who has training and experience in  the topic they are translating as well as the understanding of the nuances of a language which is their mother tongue. Add to that the fact that language translation services can be hired as and when required as you can see why demand for translation services is very likely to increase in the next few years.