Tongue tied - why studying a language is still important

The interest in language learning is dwindling to a dribble.

It is a concern that does not seem to be going away. The PIE News reported in an article recently that in the UK, the gap is widening in terms of access to foreign learning language. Equally, tes released an article last year detailing the problem, noting a decline in entries to GCSE modern foreign languages, with no optimism instilled by the Department of Education. Last month, the BBC followed suit, honing in on the situation in Wales.

In a time when communication seems to be changing rapidly, thanks to evolving technologies and social media, it seems now more than ever, turning our back on learning a second language is a dangerous move.

Broadening cultural horizons, teaching individuals to relate to each other in a real time way and of course, having the advantage of being able to travel to new and exciting destinations and ask for directions is always appealing.

Languages are often considered a secondary or tertiary subject, particularly compared to the current stars of the show: the STEM subjects.

However, languages stimulate those all-important soft skills that are now being sought after by employers: teamwork, interpersonal skills, written communication. Practically speaking, they are more useful for careers, relocating overseas and broadening one’s culinary palette than learning how to light a Bunsen burner and apportion Hydrochloric Acid.

Being able to speak French some 16 years after I first started learning it has enabled me to do many things – order extra bread at the table in Nice, strike up new business with the Quebecois and make sure I bring the right pastries home from Charles de Gaulle. In essence, I can communicate and feel like a global citizen, a skill which seems to materialise in many different forms here in 2019.

Of course, we travel more and it is cheaper to globetrot than it was some 50 years ago, but is this language learning decline impairing us socially? Bring back the days of German food tasting, pen pal writing and eccentric teachers! I certainly enjoyed studying this way. Let’s return to the days of conventional communication and inject real culture back into the school curriculum.