Foreign language GCSE exams should be changed and marked more generously as part of a radical shake-up in the way languages are taught and examined in secondary schools, a report said in December 2006. This was as a direct response to the slump in students taking modern language GCSEs since they were made non-compulsory. According Lord Dearing's interim report, headteachers should also set targets for the number of teenagers in their schools continuing a foreign language to GSCE level in order to reverse the trend of students dropping languages. While courses to learn Spanish are just about maintaining their popularity, other subjects, such as French and German, are slumping.
The importance placed on foreign languages in British schools is in contrast with much of the continent, where courses to learn English are compulsory from as young as five years old, when there is no conscious resistance to language learning. Studying a new language can be enjoyable when well structured.
Lord Dearing, who heads a policy review ordered by the government, remained reluctant to see compulsion return, even after a notable slump in the uptake of language courses since his initial report. Compulsory courses should be a last resort, according to his report, and even then they should not be forced on children already failing at Maths and English. His suggestion is that a wider range of languages should be offered. Rather than the traditional courses offered to learn French, learn German and learn Spanish, languages such as Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Turkish and Greek are equally relevant to many young Britons. Lord Dearing had been informed by the NHS that there was a growing need for staff proficient in the languages of Britain's growing immigrant communities.
Traditionally, many of these languages could only be learnt in language schools, through private tuition or via family members. In modern Britain, a wider spread of language tuition should be made available to state school students, according to the report. With an eye on the shortcomings of language provision in state schools, it is easy to locate high quality private language tuition in any major town in the UK. You can learn Spanish in Leeds or learn French in Birmingham; the large student towns are often well supplied with language teachers as universities attract students from all over the world.
If you are British and want to improve your foreign language skills, it really is in your hands nowadays. The best thing one should do for learning a language is look into a course or work abroad (a German course Berlin for example). Though it may seem a little daunting at first, going away from your family home to a country whose language you do not know, immersion is the best option. Research online or a travel agent can help you choose your destination but first you must decide what it is you want to learn. Consider how you’d like your career prospects to develop and, possibly, what country you’d like to end up working in. Once you’ve done the research and got clear ideas, then there’s nothing left to do other than to research flights (or vuelos for Spain, flüge for Germany or vols for France...) and grab your dictionary!
Your new found language skills really could take you anywhere - from working with a charity, making socially responsible gifts in a third world country to an internship in a high flying city bank! What’s most important is that you don’t hide your light under a bush – tell your employer all about your language skills on your CV or resume – you never know, it could lead to promotion, travel and special training within the job which you otherwise wouldn’t have had!