Would you love to be bilingual, multilingual even? Are you wondering if it's all worth the effort? We are here to assure you that it most certainly IS worth learning one, two or even three modern foreign languages!
Why Learn Other Languages When Almost Everyone Speaks English?
94% of the world does not speak English as their first language. 75% of the world doesn’t speak English at all.
Now let that settle in for second so you can truly appreciate that no, not everyone speaks English. It’s a reality that sometimes, some people have to understand. The attitude of many at school is sad, frankly. It serves as no surprise that people from Europe have suggested that English students are ignorant or uncultured.
But that's not the case for everyone, right? Then let's spread the word about how great it is to be a linguist!
Is It Right That English Is An Expectation?
If you go to France, and the locals detect an accent then, without exception, they are surprised if you actually speak French – the perception of the UK when it comes to learning foreign languages is quite a poor one. An inability to communicate with our European neighbours is appalling but quite often true. So, imagine their delight when someone comes into their country and actually attempts to speak to them in their native language, even though it is their home!
Why is this though? Well, you could go back to the early days of secondary education where it’s very much down to school policy if schoolchildren should actually study it. The lessons used to be uninteresting and struggle to provide any practical framework for learning.
The curriculum has been developed since those days, granted, but the message about languages needs addressing at school because so many students rule them out without a second thought because they simply don't know enough about languages or how they can benefit them.
Let's face it, if you were twelve again and had no big dream to move or work abroad then why would you choose to study a language? It might seem like a dead-end and a waste of your time and effort. But the truth is, even if you don't want to work in a different country, having a second language can have a hugely positive effect on your education and career.
Okay, it's true that while a very high number of people across the world speak or understand English, but why is it that the pressure is all on them and not on us to learn their local language? Is it right, or even fair, that we expect our neighbouring countries to speak English? Not only them but we are often surprised when people don't understand us in Tokyo or Moscow, for example?
This is where schools could really raise the profile of the huge benefits of learning a new language - and also the satisfaction that comes from it!
The Reputation Of Languages At School
By the time many students get to choosing their GCSE’s, languages have become so uninteresting for many that it’s the end of the road for them. No point continuing if you’re going to be treated to the same for two more years, let alone think about it as a legitimate A Level option.
And, "Why is an employer going to care if I can speak Cantonese?", you might think.
In actual fact, many employers would have their heads turned by this detail, however minor or inferior you might think it because even if you are applying for an IT position they will be impressed by your discipline in learning such an uncommon language for secondary schoolers and will see this as a unique trait.
Imagine you went up against another candidate who had the exact same level of qualification as you - could you just tip the panel to your side by impressing them with your wide interests and your desire to learn new things? Furthermore, how lucky would you be if this company dealt with many clients in China and therefore your language skills become a major factor in them hiring you!
You see, languages crop up everywhere, and the skill that goes into being multi-lingual is transferrable and very special indeed. If students knew just how much languages could help them along in their education and their professional lives, we think that there would be a much bigger intake in the MFL departments across the UK.
What Are the Benefits Of Studying Languages?
Let's reiterate just some of the many reasons why studying a foreign language could work for you later:
- Someone with even a ‘decent’ grasp of a foreign language could be of great value to an employer. Language skills will help in a world where people are getting closer and more easily connected. This is especially true when it comes to business and commerce. Being able to compete internationally in a global market is something that many companies look for – if you can speak a foreign language to a fair level, you could find yourself a lot higher up people’s lists than you initially thought you would be.
- Languages can open up further study opportunities for people. Study placements abroad are highly enriching and exciting opportunities, whatever you choose to do.
- Culturally, you could find yourself a step up. Even when we’re all from different places around the world, we are united in a common language.
Career Options Following A Language Course
Of course, you don’t have to take a full degree in a foreign language to see some benefit. In some courses, you are able to exchange modules to take part in foreign language modules that would form part of a degree. Not a full joint-honours as such, but still pretty interesting if you like your languages.
Of course, a joint-honours could be an excellent option if you’re really into your languages and want a bigger emphasis on the building of your understanding.
So where could you go with a degree in foreign languages, a joint-honours with a language, or even just a module?
Well, the reality of it is quite simple. If you took a joint-honours or took a language as a module, you could find yourself in the same domain as your major part of your degree or the other half of a joint-honours. The added bonus you get is that you will display a greater range of skills that will be highly coveted. If, however, you took a modern language as a whole degree, you could find yourself out in a variety of different fields…
Being a broadcaster or journalist is a somewhat unusual route if you didn’t take a specific degree. However, if you find yourself in such a posting you could well be using your language skills abroad somewhere. Many great journalists can speak in a different language to help their work. On a similar vein, even if you aren’t the main journalist or reporter, you could find yourself helping them. How?
It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? And for good reason, really. The reality is that, because so many people don’t speak enough of any foreign languages, there is a need to help people converse. For example, The Courts here in the UK look for translators and interpreters to help in criminal and civil proceedings in court, where defendants, witnesses and other members of the proceedings may not speak English first.
Interpreting has a home in journalism, as previously mentioned. Working alongside an interpreter could take you to some fascinating places as you gain experience.
Teaching / Tutoring
Perhaps you could reignite some interest in kids of this generation!
And of course, there are always the dedicated students of now who may want a little extra help to get them through their studies. Especially if you’re a student, why not consider earning a bit of money by modern foreign language online tutoring? It would be a great way to get started in the world of languages.
It goes without saying that having additional languages not only opens you up to new career opportunities across England but also across the border. Being bilingual could almost double (or triple of you have three languages under your belt!) your chances of success in the future because you could be working in England on work that requires the use of languages or you could make a move to France or Spain and be working in a whole range of jobs with your languages giving you the basis of being able to lean on the job and already understanding the language you'd be trained in.
If you see yourself as someone who won't stay in one place for long, then one, two or more languages could really help you to achieve your ambitions of travelling the world comfortably and confidently. Meanwhile, an additional language could enable you to connect to the rest of the world from your little hometown - the point we are trying to make is just how versatile a language course can be for you!