Language Learning - Benefits

Language Learning - Benefits

The benefits of learning a new language

20 March 2018 (Blasting News)

It is one of the universal truths: being bilingual or polyglot can only be considered as something positive.

We have the ability to travel constantly to another country, to interact with people with whom otherwise we could not communicate, to really understand another culture and to immerse ourselves in it. We live in an increasingly globalized world and when we are aware of the positive side of knowing a new #Language, we realize the doors of a different culture are open and it can teach us a different way of viewing the world.


Healthy Linguistic Diet website

15 March 2018 (Healthy Linguistic Diet)

Created as a result of collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and UCL, the newly launched Healthy Linguistic Diet (HLD) website aims to initiate and facilitate a shift in thinking about learning another language/other languages as a key skill or an academic subject, to understanding that using two languages is a key ingredient in our cognitive development and well-being.

Visit the website to find out more.


Could languages help young women break the glass ceiling?

7 March 2018 (MEITS Blog)

The gender pay gap is persistent and while the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies is at an all-time high, according to the 2017 list released by Fortune magazine, it still only amounts to 32, or 6.4%. But young women might have an ace up their sleeves ...


Business brunches inspire Scotland’s future global workforce in Edinburgh

6 February 2018 (SCILT)

Young people from twenty schools across the Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders areas had the opportunity to engage with local businesses at Dynamic Earth on 30 January 2018. 208 learners from S3 heard from a range of business leaders who view language skills as key to the growth and success of their company. The Business Brunch demonstrated the relevance of language skills in a work context and aimed to encourage pupils to continue with their language studies into the senior phase of their secondary education, and beyond school.

A teacher attending the event said: “The presentations were relevant. Pupils could relate to the speakers, especially those from Scotland. They really highlighted languages as an additional skill that give you the edge, which is an important message for our learners.”

One of the young people added to this, and commented: “I learnt that knowing a language can bring you a lot of opportunities and can be fun.”

Leanne Banks, Industry and Education Partnership Manager at Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian regional group, and one of the organisers, stated: “Allowing young people to hear directly from businesses across a wealth of sectors highlighted why continuing with their language(s) at school could be so beneficial to opening up a world of opportunities beyond school. With a variety of industry led workshops and exhibitors speaking directly with young people, everyone had opportunities to be informed and inspired. The day was action packed from start to finish and the feedback received from young people and teachers has been so positive we ought to start planning for the next one to make it bigger and better for 2019.”

The event was organised by SCILT, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages based at University of Strathclyde, in partnership with Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian, West Lothian and Borders regional groups together with the University Council for Modern Languages Scotland (UCMLS). Schools represented were Beeslack Community High, Broughton High, Drummond Community High, Dunbar Grammar, Firrhill High, Liberton High, Newbattle Community High, North Berwick High, Portobello High, Preston Lodge High, Ross High, St Augustine's High, St David's High, Galashiels Academy, Kelso High, Peebles High, Armadale Academy, Bathgate Academy, St Kentigern's Academy and Whitburn Academy.

Companies attending included China-Britain Business Council, GlobalScot, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, NHS, JPMorgan, Skyscanner, Food and Drink Federation Scotland and College Development Network, Asia Scotland Institute and Asia Scotland Partnership for the Environment. Apex Hotels, Dig It! 2017 Archaeology Scotland, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh College, Farne Salmon, Napier University, University of Edinburgh, Historic Environment Scotland, Laing O'Rourke, Languages by KLothian, Macdonald hotels, Multrees Walk, Project Trust, Royal Air Force, Scotland-Russia Forum, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Tourist Guide Association and The Open University in Scotland supported the event by hosting a stall in the Marketplace.

Marion Spöring, Senior Lecturer (Languages and European Studies) at the University of Dundee and Chair of UCMLS said: “The learning of languages is not only fun, but also essential for the future employment opportunities of our young people in Scotland. Languages set the foundation for varied careers, for future engineers as well as artists and in tourism, to name but a few.”

Fhiona Mackay, Director of SCILT said: “In these times of uncertainty, it is even more important than ever that we equip our young people with the skills they will need for life beyond school. We want them to be outward-looking and able to operate in an interdependent world. Events such as these highlight the importance of language skills and intercultural competencies in the world of work.

“The business leaders who speak at these events give of their own time because they understand how much these skills are needed and valued by employers and how vital they are for Scotland’s business community. This kind of collaboration is an example of how education and business sectors can work together for their mutual benefit so that we can support young people and help them develop the portfolio of skills that employers require in their workforce.”

Meaningful employer engagement and providing relevant careers advice are both key recommendations of Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy, “Developing the young workforce”. This Business Brunch supported these aims by giving young people the opportunity to ask questions and find out more about the role of languages in the business world. The targets laid out in the Scottish Attainment Challenge are about achieving equity in educational outcomes, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap. Through hearing from a range of business leaders and interacting with employees, the aspirations of the young people who attended were raised.

This collaboration between schools and businesses supported Scotland’s International Policy to equip young people with international communication and employability skills that they will need in our increasingly globalised society and economy.

The event is one of a series of Business Brunches being held across Scotland in January and February 2018.

More information on SCILT’s 2018 Business Brunches.


Study into how language delays onset of dementia

31 January 2018 (BBC)

Workshops offering older adults lessons in foreign languages to help delay the effects of dementia are being studied by researchers.

Social enterprise Lingo Flamingo was set up in Govan in Glasgow in 2015.

Dr Thomas Bak, from the University of Edinburgh, said the research he was involved in was seeking "measurable effects" from the language classes.

Dr Bak has previously studied the benefits of intensive Gaelic lessons at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig college on Skye.


Brainwaves: Dr Thomas Bak

28 January 2018 (BBC Radio Sotland)

Should we offer language classes on the NHS? Could bilingualism be more beneficial than medication when it comes to a strong, healthy brain and is monolingualism making us ill? In this Brainwaves, Pennie Latin meets the man behind those bold ideas, Dr Thomas Bak.

Available until 2 March 2018


Glasgow pensioners learn Spanish to prevent dementia

16 January 2018 (Glasgow Live)

Pensioners in Glasgow are being given language lessons in a bid to prevent the early onset of dementia.

Over 60s at Bield’s Coxton Gardens development in Glasgow, have been boosting their memory skills thanks to the weekly Spanish classes put on by one of the care assistants.

Mariana Popa, care assistant at Coxton Gardens, said: “I was looking into some activities that we could organise for our tenants here in Glasgow as part of my personal development framework, and was keen to break away from the stereotypical notion that all older people want to play games such as bingo and dominoes."


Related Links

Bield residents say ‘¡Adios a Dementia!’ (Scottish Housing News, 16 January 2018)

Dundee Dialect is ‘as good as second language’, say researchers

3 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

To those from outside Dundee, the bakery order “twa pehs, a plehn bridie an’ an inyin in an’ a” (Two pies, a plain bridie and an onion one as well) might be mistaken for a foreign language. Now, international research shows that the human brain treats the distinctive Dundonian brogue - and regional dialects in Britain and abroad - in exactly the same way as a second language.

The study at Abertay University in Dundee, and by researchers in Germany, suggests that while people from the city who converse in dialect may not be regarded generally as bilingual, cognitively there is little difference.


The need for a national languages policy and a more holistic approach towards languages in the UK

21 October 2017 (MEITS)

In this podcast Wendy Ayres-Bennett from the University of Cambridge talks to Baroness Jean Coussins, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, about the need for a national languages policy and a more holistic approach towards languages in the UK.


Learning another language staves off threat of dementia

2 October 2017 (Times)

Public health campaigns similar to the five-a-day fruit and vegetable message should be used to encourage monolingual Britons to learn another language to stave off dementia, experts say. British people are known worldwide for their poor attempts to grasp other languages. This is as dangerous as a sedentary lifestyle, a top neuroscientist has warned.

Subscription required to view full article


Early Bilingualism Helps With Learning Languages Later in Life, Study Shows

2 October 2017 (Education Week)

Bilingual people may be better equipped to learn new languages than those who only speak one language, according to a study published in the academic journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.

The research points to a distinct language-learning benefit for people who grow up bilingual or learn another language at an early age.

A team of researchers paired 13 bilingual college students who grew up in the United States with Mandarin-speaking parents, and learned both English and Mandarin at an early age, against a group of 16 monolingual college students, who spoke only English.

The researchers studied Mandarin-English bilinguals because both of these languages differ structurally from the new language being learned.


Thought for the Day - Learn a language

28 August 2017 (BBC)

The Reverend Nick Baines shares his 'Thought for the Day' on BBC Radio 4 about the importance of children learning languages. The broadcast is available on iPlayer until 27 September. (Please note registration is required to access).


New job profile on SCILT's website

18 August 2017 (SCILT)

The job profiles on our website cover a range of professions where languages are being used.

Our latest addition comes from Emma Gallacher, whose language skills have taken her from Scotland to the Costa Blanca, where she now works as receptionist for an established Real Estate firm. She firmly believes learning the language has enabled her to settle and integrate into the Spanish way of life.

Teachers use our profiles in the classroom to enhance learning about the world of work and how language skills can play a part.


Glasgow's elderly combat dementia symptoms with fun foreign language classes

4 August 2017 (Glasgow Live)

A Glasgow based organisation is blazing a trail in the battle against dementia faced by Glasgow’s elderly population.

Lingo Flamingo, based in Govan, is the world’s first non-profit organisation that provides outreach foreign language classes tailored to older adults.

It is currently launching a drive for more students, enlisting the use of their pink flamingo mascot to help spread the word to places across Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Their 10 week foreign language workshops are provided in German, Italian, Spanish and French and take place in care homes, sheltered accommodation and day centres across the city.


From Brexit to Scandi-noir: The Importance of Modern Foreign Languages

31 July 2017 (AHRC)

Many of us will be familiar with the sight of groups of young language students in UK cities over the summer months. Their excitement at being abroad away from their parents often for the first time is obvious. In 2016, he International Association of Language Centres (IALC) reported that there were 2.28 million language students travelling abroad each year, with English language travel making up around 61% of this market.

Whilst these language-learners only represented 0.25% of second language learners across the entire globe, most travelled to English-speaking countries to learn English. If the motivation for learning English in our increasing globalised world is clear, the British often struggle to appreciate the reasons for learning another language.

“The headline news for Modern Languages recently has not been good, with decreasing numbers of entrants at A-level and a number of university departments under threat of closure or severe contraction", said Wendy Ayres-Bennett, Professor of French Philology and Linguistics from the University of Cambridge.

In response to this national concern and its global implications, the AHRC has committed £16m to research in modern foreign languages (MFL) in its Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) project. Its aim is to explore and understand the language learning landscape of the UK, and how it might be transformed.

As part of OWRI, the AHRC has invested in four major research programmes, one of which is Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies (MEITS). Alongside her responsibilities at Cambridge, Prof Ayres-Bennett is Principal Investigator for the MEITS project.

“I think that in the current political climate of Brexit and of extensive migration, the need to learn modern foreign languages has arguably never been more important", says Prof Ayres-Bennett.

“I believe that there are huge benefits from being able to step outside a single language, culture and mode of thought", explains Prof Ayres-Bennett. "It enables you to see the world through other people’s eyes".

Prof Ayres-Bennett argues that the ability to speak another language is valuable to many different areas of society. "Whether we think of international relations, diplomacy, security and defence, or areas such as conflict-resolution and peace-building, or, crucially today, business, international trade, and social cohesion, all of these have languages at their heart."

Linguists are needed to provide vital translation and interpreting services. However, the need for direct communication between parties was well demonstrated by the experience of the British military in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Prof Ayres-Bennett also thinks that through reading literature in the language in which it was written, we can begin to see the world through the linguistic categories and worldview of its speakers.

"The gradual opening up of new worlds and the move from incomprehension to being able to make sense of another language and culture can be truly magical ”, says Prof Ayres-Bennett.

Scandi noir dramas have become very popular and one of the biggest hits of the year has been the Spanish language song 'Despacito'. Many young people in Europe improve their English through listening to music and watching films in English so that they no longer need to depend on subtitles.“TV and the internet increasingly provide opportunities for people to view foreign language material and to learn about other cultures.”


Survey shows long-term impacts of language travel

27 July 2017 (The Pie)

When asked what helped them improve their language skill the most, 90% of respondents to global language provider Sprachcaffe’s Language Learning Sustainability Project said it was face-to-face interaction with other people.

Over half said they are more confident speaking the language thanks to the experience of learning abroad while 20% said it helped them travel more and 13% said it contributed to a change in their work life.

“Our product [study travel] is unique because it’s learning and travel. When it comes to language learning you can do it online quick and easy but if you want something more valuable you have language learning trips,” said Pauline Pitte, the study’s co-author.

Taken over six months in 2016, the survey attracted former students from all over the world who had been on a language course abroad within the last five to 10 years. The project aims to show the long-term impacts of language learning abroad, said Pitte.

“We don’t want to make this about online versus in-class learning, we just wanted to explore the package students get when they go on language exchanges. Is it efficient for everyone?”.


New film inspired by soldiers who used Gaelic to escape Nazis

19 June 2017 (BBC)

The true story of a trio of Gaelic-speaking soldiers who used their native tongue to "bamboozle" the Germans has inspired a new feature film.

Pte William Kemp, Cpl Sandy MacDonald, and L/Cpl James Wilson escaped their captors after convincing them they were from the Soviet Union.

Now film producers have used the tale as a premise for new World War Two drama In the Darkest Hour.


Related Links

Story of Gaelic speaking soldiers who escaped Nazis will be film (The Scotsman, 18 June 2017)

Why just speaking English isn’t going to cut it anymore

15 June 2017 (The Conversation)

Britain is facing an uncertain future and an uneasy relationship with Europe after Brexit and the latest general election. Among other things, a key determiner of the success of Brexit will be the UK’s ability to conduct negotiations without language barriers. But the country’s woeful inability to learn languages, and the decline in foreign language learning among school and university students across Britain, does not bode well.

Of course, Welsh, Gaelic, Irish and Cornish are already spoken in some parts of the UK. And while it’s great to see many of these minority languages experiencing something of a revival over recent years, when it comes to life after Brexit it’s languages from further afield that will likely be most useful to Brits.

Many people in the UK may well ask “why we need languages” when “everyone in Europe speaks English anyway”. Indeed, all Brexit negotiations will be conducted in English. But given that the UK’s lack of foreign language skill is estimated to cost the nation up to £48 billion a year, this isn’t something that can just be ignored. Especially considering this figure is unlikely to decrease in post-Brexit Britain.


Language alters our experience of time

13 June 2017 (The Conversation)

It turns out, Hollywood got it half right. In the film Arrival, Amy Adams plays linguist Louise Banks who is trying to decipher an alien language. She discovers the way the aliens talk about time gives them the power to see into the future – so as Banks learns their language, she also begins to see through time. As one character in the movie says: “Learning a foreign language rewires your brain.”

My new study – which I worked on with linguist Emanuel Bylund – shows that bilinguals do indeed think about time differently, depending on the language context in which they are estimating the duration of events. But unlike Hollywood, bilinguals sadly can’t see into the future. However, this study does show that learning a new way to talk about time really does rewire the brain. Our findings are the first psycho-physical evidence of cognitive flexibility in bilinguals.


Why Learning A New Language Is Always A Good Career Move

8 June 2017 (Huffington Post)

In a global economy, simply telling your potential employer that you have what it takes to get the job done doesn’t cut it anymore. Hiring managers at top firms weigh in many factors – some of which might be out of your control. In trying to land that dream job, you may find yourself outmaneuvered by a well-connected candidate or, in many cases, simply pitted against more accomplished peers.

In spite of tough competition, there’s a way for you to stand out: master a foreign language.

In a recent report by the New American Economy, the number of U.S. companies looking for bilingual workers has more than doubled in the last five years. The demand for foreign language proficiency is now at 630,000, a huge jump from 240,000 open positions for candidates with bilingual abilities in 2010. This trend will only continue despite the recent misguided shifts towards nationalism in the US and abroad.

In the past, the majority of listings involved hospitality and customer-service industries. Much has changed over time. Today, the fastest growing categories for bilingual positions now includes financial managers, industrial engineers and editors. We currently have presidents of investment firms, tech giants, and manufacturing companies taking our language courses. They see the value in gaining at least a basic level of understanding in a foreign language. The benefits of language training however are not only for high level executives. Over the years, it has become more evident that bilingual employees have an edge, no matter where they are in the skills-spectrum.


New job profile on SCILT's website

28 April 2017 (SCILT)

The job profiles on our website cover a range of professions where languages are being used.

Our latest addition comes from Charlie Foot, founder of Bili, the online language exchange platform for schools. Charlie explains how speaking to people in their own language creates opportunities for much deeper connections and cultural understanding.

Teachers use our profiles in the classroom to enhance learning about the world of work and how language skills can play a part.


Learn a language to delay dementia

23 April 2017 (The Sunday Times)

Learning a second language can delay the onset of some kinds of dementia by six years, according to new research.

Even five hours a week of learning can build up a “cognitive reserve” counteracting the effects of brain disease and boosting function in all age groups.

Thomas Bak, a neuroscientist at Edinburgh University, found that people benefited by attempting a second language even if they were far from fluent.


Learning a second language isn’t just good for your brain—it’s good for democracy, too

13 April 2017 (Quartz Media)

We live in narrow-minded times, wherein insularity and nationalism are pervasive in public discourse. If you’re among the many people looking for ways to take political action, one of the most effective things you can do is devote yourself to learning a new foreign language.

Learning a new language is a way to foster community and understanding between people of all political persuasions and nationalities. This can act both as a potent corrective force to any tendencies of narrow-mindedness we may be harboring, and as a form of political resistance. It’s a concrete action that all of us can take to move the needle toward a more just and open-minded mentality.

To understand why this is the case, it’s useful to consider all the ways in which learning a language helps steel us against the prevailing small-mindedness of our times.

Learning a language helps you understand your own culture better.

Though we speak our own language all the time, we don’t tend to notice how it works until we learn another one. Until then, we lack the necessary perspective: As the German poet Goethe said, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”


Learn another language and keep your brain fit

20 March 2017 (Irish Times)

Most people in this part of the world have a smattering of French or Spanish which comes in useful when ordering dinner on holiday, but because much of the developed world speaks English there is less incentive for us to really try to become fluent, as it is generally accepted that wherever we may find ourselves someone will understand what we are trying to say.

However, if research is to be believed, learning a new language has huge benefits and not just for social reasons either. A new study from Scotland involving elderly participants revealed that those who began learning a completely new language had far better mental responses than those who were engaging in other learning activities.


Brain Fitness - Learn a New Language

15 March 2017 (Huffington Post)

Research has shown that it’s important to “exercise” your brain and language learning is one of the most effective and practical ways to do this. Speaking and learning a foreign language gives your brain a good workout, keeps your mind sharp, and defends your brain against aging.

Surprisingly, being bilingual wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Some educators and scientists thought that learning a foreign language, especially from a young age, had a negative effect on brain development and caused confusion. They also claimed being bilingual would hinder academic performance. We now know that exactly the opposite is true. Science now shows that learning a second language helps strengthen the brain.


Related Links

Learning a second language can add years to your life (Lee's Summit Journal, 14 March 2017)

New job profile on SCILT's website

10 March 2017 (SCILT)

We have a range of Job Profiles on our website designed for teachers to use in the classroom to enhance learning about the world of work and how language skills can play a part.

Our latest addition comes from Kirsten Matthews, a Distillery Tour Guide and Public Service Interpreter. Kirsten tells us her language skills make it possible for her to perform a service and to help people in her roles.

You can see Kirsten's profile on our website.


Linguanomics: What Is the Market Potential of Multilingualism?

2 March 2017 (THE)

Linguistic diversity is a good thing, and individuals, institutions and societies can benefit from investing in language learning. This is the conviction from which Gabrielle Hogan-Brun starts and the conclusion she reaches. Evidence for this proposition is not difficult to find, and Linguanomics provides a wealth of examples from aviation safety to Mark Zuckerberg via Marco Polo.

Aviation accidents demonstrate the benefits of language learning ex negativo. When the last recorded words of a Chinese pilot are “What does ‘pull up’ mean?”, one may conclude that a fatal incident could have been avoided if the pilot had had better English. Conversely, Polo did well as a trader and traveller, and his fluency in four languages surely helped; the same with Zuckerberg, who may be hoping that his Chinese language skills will smooth Facebook’s entry into the Chinese market.

Linguanomics is full of anecdotes such as these, and they all go to show that language skills are useful and may even be highly profitable. Hogan-Brun is on a mission to convince her readers that they should be more alert to the market potential of language learning. Given the neglect of languages in much of the English-speaking world, this is a laudable aim, and Linguanomics succeeds as a piece of punditry.


Lazy monolinguals will hurt your business: The compelling case for bringing language learning into the workplace

27 February 2017 (CityA.M.)

The UK’S future relationship with Europe is far from certain. With many of Brexit’s economic consequences still panning out, it is a good time to reflect on how the UK can maintain a global trading edge after its exit from the EU.

In this respect, post-Brexit UK companies would do well to embrace foreign languages as a matter of urgency in order to cement the creation of effective cultural and business relationships with prospective EU and non-EU trading partners.

While English is undoubtedly one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and largely used as the lingua franca in corporate diplomacy, I believe that a lack of intercultural and language competence on the UK’s part could jeopardise the future global standing and prosperity of its businesses.

As former German Chancellor Willy Brandt put it over 40 years ago: “if I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen”. Indeed, multilingual businesses are proven to benefit from richer interactions between partners, employees, suppliers and customers as well as increased sales and return on investment. It also offers a significant edge on the competition by enabling a wider customer and client base.


Do we need modern language graduates in a globalised world?

23 February 2017 (THE)

Six academics offer their views on the state of language learning in a populist climate.


Time to listen to teens on language learning

21 February 2017 (Scholastic blog)

For far too long it seems that media columns have been filled with reports of declining interest of British teenagers in modern foreign languages (MFL).

Take the figures published last summer. The number of children studying French to A-level has fallen by around 50 per cent in eight years to fewer than 10,000. Only around 3,800 youngsters took German. There was also a fall in those studying Spanish, which had previously bucked the anti-languages drift.

The government replied that it has been encouraging pupils to take languages, mainly through the English Baccalaureate – the wrap-around qualification which requires pupils to sit a range of certain GCSEs including a language.

But the problems don’t end there. More university language departments are facing closure if student recruitment continues to decline, and the key problem facing language courses is the drop in the number of students sitting the relevant A-levels that are required for entry. And there is a shortage of MFL teachers.

This ought to worry us – even more so as we head towards Brexit. It has been estimated by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages that our failure to communicate in anything other than English costs Britain up to £50 billion a year in lost trade. Declining numbers of MFL students have led to calls for a joined up strategy where the full contribution of languages to the economy and society is realised, with the National Association of Head Teachers particularly vocal.


Why multilingualism is good for economic growth

3 February 2017 (The Conversation)

'If your strategy is to trade only with people that speak English that’s going to be a poor strategy.'

Top US economist Larry Summers recently tweeted this in relation to America’s focus on its so-called special relationship with the UK. And he’s right. The economic impact on the US – or any other country – that closes off its trade barriers with countries that are different to it would be enormous.

Language matters on a large-scale national level and at the level of smaller businesses.


Josh Martin, student of Psychology & German and part-time racing driver

3 February 2017 (SCILT)

Our Job Profiles are designed for teachers to use in the classroom to enhance learning about the world of work and how language skills can play a part.

Our latest addition comes from student and part-time racing driver, Josh Martin, who appreciates how languages are key in helping him communicate with fans around the world and in negotiating sponsorship deals.

Read his profile and others on our website now.


New STEM job profile on SCILT's website

20 January 2017 (SCILT)

If you're looking for relevant career advice on languages direct from the workplace, read the Job Profiles on our website. These resources are designed for teachers to use in the classroom to enhance learning about the world of work and how language skills can play a part.

Our latest addition comes from John Barry, a former petroleum engineer and manager with Shell, who explains how his language skills helped him to develop his career with the company.


Language learning aids attention, study says

19 January 2017 (Knowridge Science Report)

Mental agility can be boosted by even a short period of learning a language, a study suggests.

Tests carried out on students of all ages suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention, after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that these benefits could be maintained with regular practice.

A team from the University assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

Researchers tracked people’s attention levels with a series of listening tests including the ability to concentrate on certain sounds and switch the attention to filter relevant information.

They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course – but not involving learning a new language – and with a group who had not completed any course.

After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.

This improvement was found for all ages, from 18 to 78 years, which researchers say demonstrates the benefits of language learning also in later life.


Why making languages non-compulsory at GCSE is a step backwards

17 January 2017 (The Telegraph)

I am nervous as I take my seat in front of the Head of Languages; it is GCSE choices evening and the school gym has been transformed, criss-crossed by rows of tables and chairs with eager parents and their offspring gathered around harried-looking teachers.

“I'd like to do Triple Language,” I say, “French, Spanish and Italian.”

She regards me over the top of her sheet full of names, in front of her.

“Oh no, I don't think so. You could do Spanish, maybe, but you'll find three too difficult.”

Seven years later and I am on the brink of successfully completing my undergraduate degree in, you guessed it, languages. And whilst I look back on that exchange now with a certain degree of victorious pride, I still can't help but wonder what prompted her to turn a perfectly capable student away from her course.

In this performance-obsessed climate where a pupil's grades are often put before their education, it is unsurprising that even some of the best teachers find themselves advising students against courses which are deemed too challenging. But we must do away with the notion that languages are an elite subject if we are to improve the dire situation in which we now find ourselves.


Watch brilliant archive footage as Gary Lineker meets Mark Hughes to talk Stoke

13 January 2017 (The Sentinel)

BBC's new football programme The Premier League Show sent Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker to Stoke to catch up with his old teammate Mark Hughes.

The pair had played together under Terry Venables at Barcelona, with Hughes admitting he wished he had bought into the culture.


How Mandarin can unlock our children's potential in an increasingly connected world

10 January 2017 (The Telegraph)

With over one billion speakers worldwide, the global significance of Mandarin Chinese cannot be denied. But with the continued growth of English as a lingua franca of business, travel and international relations, do we really need more young people in the UK to learn it?

The reality is that, at a time when the UK is repositioning itself on the world stage, young people across the UK need to have the knowledge and skills to unlock their potential in an increasingly connected world - and to my mind at least, there are few abilities more valuable than speaking Mandarin Chinese.

The good news is that parents across the UK seem to think so too. Research released last week as part of the Mandarin Excellence Programme highlighted that those with children aged under 18 see Mandarin Chinese as the ‘most beneficial’ non-European language for their children's future – followed by Arabic and Japanese. As well as 51 per cent of those surveyed believing that speaking Mandarin would boost their children's career prospects, 56 per cent saw it as a skill that would open their children's minds to an ‘exciting and dynamic culture’.


People can protect themselves against dementia if they can speak another language

10 January 2017 (The Mirror)

Being able to speak another language protects against dementia and other age-related decline in brain power, a new study found.

People who are bilingual are better at saving brain power and less prone to be distracted as their brains get wired.

So they use less of the brain than those who speak just one language.

And they rely less on the frontal areas of the brain which are vulnerable to ageing explaining why the brains of bilinguals are better equipped at staving off the signs of cognitive ageing or dementia.

Professor Ana In s Ansaldo at the University of Montreal compared the functional brain connections in monolingual and bilingual elderly people.


Being bilingual makes people's brains more efficient and could combat cognitive ageing, study finds

10 January 2017 (The Independent)

Scientists have found that the benefits of being bilingual stretch much further than those commonly associated with being fluent in two languages - it could also help a person’s brain in later life.

New research from the Université de Montréal shows that people who are bilingual are able to save brain power, which in turn could help with the effects of cognitive ageing.

The study, led by Dr Ana Inés Ansaldo at the university’s geriatric research centre, found that bilingualism can make the brain more efficient and economical in the way that it carries out certain tasks.


Parents think Mandarin is most useful language for children, survey says

5 January 2017 (BT)

Mandarin Chinese is the most useful non-European language for children to learn, UK parents believe.

It will boost their child's career prospects, according to 51%of parents, while 56% felt it would open their children's minds to an "exciting and dynamic" culture.

Arabic and Japanese, which both picked by 14% of parents, were the other key non-European languages.

The figures were gained after 1,138 UK adults with children aged under 18 were questioned in a Populus survey commissioned by the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP).

French, Spanish and German were the top choices overall for young people in the UK to learn after being picked by 57%, 54% and 40% of parents respectively.


Support for adult language learning on the SCILT website

28 November 2016 (SCILT)

Language learning is for all ages. Visit our Adult Learners pages to find out the range of language learning opportunities in your area and online. You can also read about the benefits of learning a new language at any age, some tips to motivate you and testimonials from other adult language learners to encourage and inspire you!


Survey on perceived benefits of langauge learning

21 October 2016 (British Academy)

As part of a British Academy special project exploring the (mis)match between perceived and evidenced benefits of language learning, British Academy would like to invite you to participate in a short online questionnaire survey.

British Academy is interested in hearing your language learning experiences, and your thoughts and attitudes towards language learning. It doesn't matter if you can speak only one language or many.

There are 40 questions in total, and will take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

Child questionnaire

Adult questionnaire

Your feedback is important. Thank you for your support.

Language Ambassadors Programme

6 October 2016 (University of Strathclyde)

Now in its 5th year, the Language Ambassadors Programme is offering visits to Secondary or Primary schools (and other formats too). As Language Ambassadors we will talk about our varied experiences as language learners and do our best to encourage your pupils to follow in our footsteps…

Motivation, experiences abroad, transition to First year at university, job prospects, university courses… This is what we can tell them about.

Boost your young learners’ motivation, invite us in!

For more information see the Language Ambassadors website and to organise a visit, simply contact: Cédric Moreau,

Language Ambassadors at Strathclyde photo


The value of languages: Ideas for a UK strategy for languages

23 May 2016 (UCML)

What value should we put on languages in the UK? Why do they actually matter (if the world is learning English...)? What strategies do we need as a country in respect of languages? This excellent report draws out some of the current evidence, illustrated by excellent case-studies and then makes several strong recommendations about a way forward.

The report, published in May 2016, follows the high level cross-departmental workshop held in autumn 2015 which brought together language academics, lobbyists and civil servants and was chaired by Baroness Coussins, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Languages.


Languages: centuries of colonialism have made us lazy

23 May 2016 (Telegraph)

With the EU referendum only a month away, Europe is the hottest topic for debate in media and social circles. Don’t worry though, I am not about to start pontificating and debating the whys and wherefores of being in or out. Instead, I’m going to focus on one key issue that has been lost in the wider political debate and will remain constant and crucial whatever the outcome; that is the issue of language learning and why it is so important that as a nation we break the curse of centuries of monolingualism.


The truth about Dementia

17 May 2016 (BBC News)

Angela Rippon investigates the disease that took her mother's life and is now starting to affect her friends. She undergoes a series of tests to discover if she has any early signs of the disease and makes the difficult decision about whether to take a genetic test that could predict her future risk. Along the way, Angela finds out some of the surprising ways people can help to protect themselves. She discovers why getting a good night's sleep could help prevent Alzheimer's and how learning a new language might be more effective than any current drug treatment. Angela also visits a number of people who are living with the disease, including Bob, the husband of one of her oldest friends. She meets families that carry a gene for early-onset Alzheimer's and discovers how they could be the best hope of finding a cure for this devastating disease.

Available to watch until 11 June 2016.


Benefits of Bilingualism - Part Two

17 May 2016 (BBC World Service)

More than half the world speaks more than one language. New research is showing that being multilingual has some surprising advantages – it can help us keep healthier longer. Gaia Vince finds out how knowing many languages can protect our brains over our lifespan, and even stave off the appearance of some diseases, including dementia.


5 reasons learning a language provides a confidence boost for kids and adults

16 May 2016 (One Third Stories)

Lots of us suffer from shyness and it can really stand in our way if we don’t take control of it. But have you ever thought about how learning a language could help you to get over it? We’ve put together a list of the reasons why learning a language can really help both children and adults to overcome their timidity!


New job profile on SCILT's website

12 May 2016 (SCILT)

Let your pupils see that languages are valuable in the world of work. We have a range of job profiles on the SCILT website in which people from a range of sectors - including sport, marketing, technology and many more - explain how language learning has influenced their professional lives. See our latest addition:
See this and other job profiles on our website now.


Benefits of Bilingualism - Part One

9 May 2016 (BBC World Service)

In this first episode on the BBC World Service Discovery channel, Gaia Vince explores the research that shows the benefits of bilingualism, focusing on learning languages in childhood.

In the second episode of the series, to be broadcast on 16 May, she will explore the benefits of being bilingual in older people.

Listen to the first episode now on the BBC website.


Age no barrier to learning a new language, say Edinburgh University experts

28 April 2016 (The Herald)

Learning another language boosts brain power, no matter how old you are, according to new research.

Tests carried out on students suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that the benefits for mental agility could be maintained with regular practice.

Edinburgh University researchers assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course but not involving learning a new language and with a group who had not completed any course.

After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.


Why children should learn a second language

7 April 2016 (EuroTalk blog)

The Scottish Government has committed to every child learning a second language at the age of 5. Alongside this, they’ll learn an additional language in P5, which means children will know 3 languages by the time they leave school. It’s called the 1+2 policy and we think it’s a great pledge, as there are so many reasons why children should learn another language.

Earlier this week an article came out stating that ‘bilingual babies are smarter’. Growing up learning or hearing a second language helps to increase their learning capabilities including problem solving and memory. This means not only do children benefit from knowing a second language; it also helps them improve across all other subjects that they’re learning.


Bilingual children ARE smarter: Babies who grow up listening to two languages have better problem-solving skills even before they can talk

5 April 2016 (Daily Mail)

Learning a second language when you are young has long been known to boost brainpower.

Now researchers have found that the brains of babies exposed to two languages benefit from this extra boost even before they can utter a word.

Scientists claim that just growing up in a home or environment where they are listening to more than one language being spoken could improve a child's problem solving skills and memory.


Related Links

What being bilingual does to your brain (The Independent, 5 April 2016)

Born Global evidence published by the British Academy

31 March 2016 (British Academy)

Born Global is a resource for the languages community to use to help make the case for the importance and value of studying languages.

Born Global consists of quantitative and qualitative data on the complex relationship between language learning and employability. Each data set is accompanied by a booklet with background information and a summary of key findings. The data is open and free to use, it is available on the British Academy website.

The British Academy has used this evidence in a new publication Born Global: Implications for Higher Education. It offers reflections on the current state of play for languages at university, and can be downloaded from the British Academy website.


Go and work abroad – it could have career benefits you never imagined

17 March 2016 (The Guardian)

I had a lot of good times working abroad – teaching English in Germany and working on summer camps in France and Spain – but I didn’t realise that I was also building valuable skills for my career.

Employers really value those with international experience. Katie Bateman, a careers advisor at the University of Gloucestershire, says it can set you apart from a crowd of other applicants. “Graduates can learn another language and prove just how adaptable they are by embracing change and learning to adjust to a different culture,” she says.


The more languages we speak, the merrier we all are

7 March 2016 (The Telegraph)

Believe it or not, the world is multilingual. It is estimated that at least half of the world’s population, over 3 billion people, use more than one language in everyday life. According to the European Commission, 54 per cent of European citizens are bilingual. Even Britain, considered one of the most “monolingual” countries, is not doing too badly with 39 per cent.

Scientists have only recently started to study humans’ ability to acquire multiple languages. One of the most fascinating questions addressed in this research is how our brain deals with having two or more languages, and what are the implications for cognitive development.


Viewing languages as a luxury? Nuts to that!

19 February 2016 (TESS)

In 1995 I boarded an Aberdeen train for a marathon journey to the picturesque French town of Le Puy-en-Velay, where I was to spend a year as an English language assistant.

I'd done six years of French at school and another two at university. Now I was ready to throw myself into the land of Gainsbourg, Camus, Piaf, Truffant, Depardieu and (my main cultural reference point) Astérix. Or was I?

As the latest of several trains trundled past Bourgogne vineyards, I headed to the buffet car. I had a craving for peanuts.

Only I didn't know the French word for peanuts...

(see the Editorial, page 5 of TESS digital for the full article - TES subscription required).


Related Links

Let’s be clear on foreign languages (TESS online, page 15) - subscription required to access.

Gaelic 'should be preserved' to benefit the brain

15 February 2016 (The Herald)

Languages on the brink of dying out should be preserved in light of evidence that shows juggling different tongues is good for the brain, claims a British expert.

Professor Antonella Sorace, founder of the Bilingualism Matters Centre at the University of Edinburgh, is investigating the potential benefits of studying minority languages such as Sardinian and Scottish Gaelic.

Previous research has already shown that being multilingual can improve thinking and learning ability, and may reduce mental decline with age.


New job profile on the SCILT website

12 February 2016 (SCILT)

We have a range of job profiles on the SCILT website to let your pupils see that languages are valuable in the world of work. People from a range of sectors - including sport, marketing, technology and many more - explain how language learning has influenced their professional lives.

Our latest profile features Susan Brown, a Blue Badge Tourist Guide in Scotland, who tells us how important language skills have been in her career at home and abroad.

See this and other job profiles on our website now.


Outplay speaks to students about the advantages of learning a second language

11 February 2016 (Outplay Entertainment)

As the largest independent games company in Scotland, Outplay Entertainment reaches an audience of millions of players worldwide through popular games such as Crafty Candy and Alien Creeps TD. Although the company works with international partners and serves gamers from all over the world, we recognise the importance of supporting our local communities.

Recently, we have been focusing on motivating students to consider learning a second language in order to help boost their future career prospects. It can be challenging to encourage pupils to pick up another language, but in an industry that is globally active, there is a strong advantage for those who can.

Aside from the obvious advantage of being able to speak in a different language, there are many more benefits that are not always apparent when you are confronted with your first French lesson in school.

This is where we come in. Unbeknownst to many, languages and regional awareness are essential to the success of a modern games company. We have a multinational staff working in a variety of roles – from French artists to Italian developers. Being able to produce fully localized games is a critical part of our business. Games and gamer culture form a massive part of most kids’ lives these days. As such, we have an immediate connection to the interest of young people and can reach out to them on that level.

Please note, if any schools are interested in a visit from the company, please contact SCILT.


Eight Reasons Why You Should Really Learn a Language

20 January 2016 (Huffington Post)

So you have always had the intention to learn a foreign language but never quite got around to doing it? Well, you know what they say; it is never too late to start something new! Here are 8 impressive reasons as to why mastering a foreign language really would change your life...


A Second Language Looks Fabulous on Your Brain

19 January 2016 (Chief Learning Officer blog)

French was always a beautiful language to me.

I took it for a few years in high school from a teacher whose name eludes me now but who had a way of emphasizing syllables with her fingers. The class had a few cut-ups, and no small share of each class period was spent attending to or ignoring their antics. Still, after all the quizzes, conversations and examinations, all I've left today is, well, an appreciation for the language.

A second attempt at learning a new language came about 10 years later. Except for the first few minutes of the very first class, the instructor spoke only in Spanish and the class — a mix of undergraduates, high-achieving high school students and me — were encouraged to only speak in Spanish, too.

I was out of my element, to say the least. If the intensive course could be compared to a group workout class, it was high-impact Zumba, and I was the latecomer with no more cardio experience than a few Jumping Jacks.

As strenuous as learning a new language felt, however, the mental workout had more value than I realized. I wasn’t just broadening my worldview; I was helping my brain in powerful ways.


Related Links

Learning a second language may depend on the strength of brain's connections (Medical Xpress, 19 January 2016)

New job profile on the SCILT website

14 January 2016 (SCILT)

We have a range of job profiles on the SCILT website to let your pupils see that languages are valuable in the world of work. People from a range of sectors - including sport, marketing, technology and many more - explain how language learning has influenced their professional lives.

Our latest profile features Andrew Muir, who lived and studied in Scotland but now works in London as a Character Animator on a children's TV series. He tells us why language learning is important and the opportunities this can offer him to expand his career overseas.

See this and other job profiles on our website now.


'Pay for foreign exchange trips rather than a week in Majorca,' top headteacher tells parents

11 January 2016 (TES)

Parents should consider sending their child on a school foreign exchange rather than spending money on a week in Majorca, a headteacher has suggested.

Young people are likely to learn more on a cultural break in a city such as Madrid or Barcelona than they are sitting on a beach, according to Caroline Jordan, headmistress of Headington School in Oxford and the new president of the Girls' Schools Association.

Setting up a foreign exchange for students did not have to be expensive, Ms Jordan said.

"It's trying to convince the parents that that's good use of their finances as opposed to a foreign holiday to Majorca, where they may well be in a Spanish environment but they're less likely to be experiencing Spanish as they would be if they were in somewhere like Madrid or Barcelona on exchange," she said.

"Exchange is very important and we know that languages is a real area of concern in this country. The government is doing quite a lot about this by trying to encourage all children to take a language through the English Baccalaureate."

Figures show that last year, there was a drop in language GCSE entries, with French down 6.2 per cent on 2014, German down 9.8 per cent and Spanish down 2.4 per cent.

As well as ensuring that children learned a foreign language, Ms Jordan added that it was important that modern teenagers were given the opportunity to consider studying at a university overseas, arguing that it could be beneficial to them later on.


Arsenal’s Petr Cech proves his brilliance with defensive organisation in three different languages

31 December 2015 (Metro / Daily Mail)

Arsenal star Petr Cech has revealed the secret behind his successful marshaling of the Gunners back line.

The 33-year-old speaks to his defenders in three different languages to make sure that he can get his message across during matches.

Having only conceded 18 goals this season, the north London side have the fourth most miserly defence in the Premier League. This may part of the reason why.

‘I speak to the full-backs (Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal) in Spanish, to (Laurent) Koscielny in French and to Per (Mertesacker) in English because for him it is the same as me,’ said Cech according to the Daily Mail.


Why these UK school kids love learning languages

29 December 2015 (British Council)

In this video school pupils in the UK share their thoughts about language learning and the benefits it can bring. Actor, Larry Lamb, who is backing the British Council's campaign for Britons to learn a language in 2016 also shares his views.


Govan dementia language project launched

12 December 2015 (BBC)

A new scheme is being launched which helps elderly and vulnerable adults battle dementia by learning foreign languages.

Lingo Flamingo was founded by Robbie Norval who was inspired by his grandmother, who had dementia.

Research has indicated that speaking several languages can delay the onset of dementia, as well as other forms of brain ageing and mental illness. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to help launch the project.


What should we teach our kids?

8 December 2015 (BBC)

What will the world economy look like 30 years from now? And how should we be preparing British schoolchildren today to find employment in it? Robert Peston travels to four cutting edge schools that claim to provide the way forwards for secondary education.

Should the focus be on languages and cultural knowhow for an increasingly globalised world? Should we be striving to create more of the engineers and programmers that so many employers are crying out for? Or - with the unstoppable march of the robots gobbling up ever more human jobs - should we be preparing kids with the social skills to be future entrepreneurs, employing their own personal fleets of automatons? Or is a traditional academic education the answer.

Robert Peston tries to get answers to perhaps the most important question all parents must ask from economists, scientists and teachers - and argues that what matters may not be the detail of the curriculum but the way children are taught to learn.

Listen to the programme which was broadcast on 8 December at 20:00 on BBC Radio 4.


School language learning decline tackled by universities

3 December 2015 (BBC News)

A new scheme to help reverse a sharp decline in foreign language learning in schools in Wales has been announced by four universities.

In June, a report found the number of children studying a language at GCSE fell by a third between 2005 and 2014.

Under the pilot project, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea undergraduates will be trained to coach school pupils on their language skills.

The scheme is funded by Welsh ministers' Global futures programme.

Prof Claire Gorrara from Cardiff University, the academic leading the project, said there was increasing evidence the drop in foreign language learning was limiting young people's educational, training and career opportunities.


Are you ready for a global future?

3 December 2015 (Cambridge University Press)

There are many reasons why everyone should learn a language, even if you happen to have the distinct advantage of speaking a world language as your first. Yet in England too many people believe that English is enough. European survey data[1] show that 61% of English people speak no other language apart from English. This compares with an EU average of 56% who speak at least one other language in addition to their first language. The case for increasing language capability can be made on a number of grounds: for reasons of trade, international diplomacy and national security[2], as well as for extending our global influence as individuals and as a country through science, humanities and the arts. So why do so many young people seem unaware of the value of language learning? What should our young people be studying to equip them for the future? How should schools and universities prepare the next generations for professional life 2020 – 2030 and beyond

Bernardette Holmes is Principal Researcher for the Born Global Policy Research Project funded by the British Academy, Campaign Director for Speak to the Future and a Bye-Fellow of Downing College, University of Cambridge


A healthy obsession

25 November 2015 (Post Primary Languages Initiative blog)

My name is Bláithín Macken Smith and I am eighteen years old. If you could see sixteen year old me it would be as if you were looking at two entirely different people. I suppose that could be true for a lot of people, but for me the reason behind my big transition was my study of languages.

Until my fourth year of school I utterly despised everything about school, every morning it was more difficult to drag myself out of bed, so much so that I very often didn’t. I was convinced that after my fourth year of school that was it. I was going to drop out. So desperately did I want to leave school and become a tattoo artist. I spent much of transition year on work experience in various parlours around Dublin. Many of my family members and teachers thought that the war was lost and that my mind was made up, and then something happened.

All through transition year I was given the opportunity to try subjects I had never tried before. Russian, Japanese, Latin and Spanish, which I had studied since first year but which I now saw the fun in. I took part in language aptitude tests and the DATS tests which showed my abilities in linguistic subjects. Unfortunately for me I didn’t listen to these signs until fifth year. When I finally discovered my love for languages the course of my life changed entirely.


How Learning A New Language Changes Your Brain And Your Perception

24 November 2015 (Medical Daily)

Learning a foreign language opens us up to new experiences, work opportunities, and allows us to meet people we may never have otherwise. More than that, research has shown learning a language can also physically change brain structure and adjust perception.

When we learn a language, we create new neural pathways in our brain, which can lead to noticeable changes. The left hemisphere is generally believed to be the logical part of the brain and is where many of our language skills originate. However, a 2012 Swiss study observed that learning a foreign language later in life is associated with thickening of the cerebral cortex — a layer of neurons specifically responsible for memory, thought, consciousness and, of course, language. This increased thickness can lead to better memory and sharper thinking later in life.


Speakers of more than one language twice as likely recover normal brain function after stroke, study finds

19 November 2015 (The Herald)

Stroke patients are more likely to regain their cognitive functions if they speak more than one language, new research has discovered.

A study of 608 stroke victims found 40.5 per cent of those who are multilingual had normal mental functions afterwards, compared to 19.6 per cent of patients who only speak one language.

The study was carried out by a team from Edinburgh University in conjunction with the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad. The Indian city was chosen as the location for the study because its multi-cultural nature means many languages are commonly spoken, including English, Hindi and Urdu.

Of the participants, 255 only spoke one language while 353 were bilingual.


Related Links

Speaking a second language aids stroke recovery (The Scotsman, 19 November 2015)

Bilingual people twice as likely to recover from a stroke (The Telegraph, 19 November 2015)

Bilingual skills enhance stroke recovery, study finds (BBC News, 20 November 2015)

Languages help stroke recovery, study says (University of Edinburgh, 20 November 2015)

Bilingualism May Help Stroke Patients Recover Faster- Finds Study (Health News Line, 23 November 2015)

Gary Keown: The sad truth of David Moyes' wasted opportunity in San Sebastian

12 November 2015 (The Herald)

David Moyes' failure to speak Spanish remains a sore point as Real Sociedad fans dissect his year in charge of their team.


'More inspiring teachers' needed to tackle UK's language skills shortage

11 November 2015 (Cambridge News)

More inspiring teaching is needed to prevent Britain falling further behind in foreign language skills, a Cambridge linguist has claimed.

Last week Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett welcomed over 100 representatives from assorted Whitehall departments, including the MOD and GCHQ, to Murray Edwards College, for a debate on the future of the UK's language policy.

Speaking to the News after the conference she said improving language teaching in schools would have far-reaching benefits for the nation as a whole.

She said: "It was a very wide-ranging group of people, with a lot of civil servants coming together, which is very important."

"Language policy is not just about education, but what we were trying to shown is the lack of languages in the UK is such a problem for cases like diplomacy, conflict resolution and business."


All talk ... five ways to use language skills to boost your career

9 November 2015 (The Guardian)

Resigned to a short sentence shoved at the bottom of CVs, downplaying language skills is a common mistake.

Whether you are completely fluent or stuttering over the subjunctive, you should be shouting about it to employers, says Lizzie Fane, founder of “It shows an eagerness to learn to your employer and may even lead to you being able to travel abroad or work with clients who speak that language.”


Speaking in tongues: the many benefits of bilingualism

4 November 2015 (The Conversation)

We live in a world of great linguistic diversity. More than half of the world’s population grows up with more than one language. There are, on the other hand, language communities that are monolingual, typically some parts of the English-speaking world.

In this case, bilingualism or multilingualism can be seen as an extraordinary situation – a source of admiration and worry at the same time. But there are communities where bilingualism or multilingualism are the norm – for example in regions of Africa. A Cameroonian, for example, could speak Limbum and Sari, both indigenous languages, plus Ewondo, a lingua franca, plus English or French, the official languages, plus Camfranglais, a further lingua franca used between anglophone and francophone Cameroonians.

On a smaller scale, we all know families where bilingualism or multilingualism are the norm, because the parents speak different languages or because the family uses a language different from that of the community around them.

How difficult is it for a child to grow up in such an environment? And what are bilingual children capable of? Well, they are capable of quite a lot, even at a very young age. They can understand and produce expressions in more than one language, they know who to address in which language, they are able to switch very fast from one language to the other.


9 reasons why you should learn a foreign language

29 October 2015 (The National Student)

Having knowledge of one or more foreign languages is increasingly beneficial in today’s society, says French language student Emily Maybanks.


What languages mean to me

22 October 2015 (EuroTalk blog)

Interview with Alexandra Turner – translator, writer, editor.


We must develop a tolerance gene to languages, including Gaelic

21 October 2015 (The Herald letters)

Letters in the Herald from readers in support of the Gaelic language policy and language learning.


Related Links

So, who needs Gaelic? (The Herald letters, 19 October 2015)

Toni Giugliano: Speaking foreign language opens many doors

15 October 2015 (The Scotsman)

I was delighted to read in the News (October 13) that Edinburgh City Council is taking steps to implement the SNP government’s ambitious policy on modern languages.

Telephoning my mum has always been a source of entertainment for anyone within earshot. I start a sentence in Italian and sometimes finish it in English, switching from one to the other, reflexively and unconsciously. That’s how the bilingual mind works – you could spend the entire day thinking in one language and dream in the other. My bilingualism has profoundly shaped me and my politics – speaking two languages allows a deeper understanding of two cultures, two different ways of life and mentalities.


Related Links

All pupils to learn two foreign languages by high school (Edinburgh Evening News, 13 October 2015)

Why Mandarin is Not the Future Language of Business

1 October 2015 (The Examiner)

For decades, Mandarin has been touted as the future language of business. China has the largest population in the world and has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth to become one of the global industry powerhouses. Around 955 million people are speakers of Mandarin which is more than 14.4% of the world’s population. These statistics support the claim that it will be the language of the future, but it’s not that simple. There are many factors that suggest that Spanish, not Mandarin, will become the ultimate business language.


Why we should all be learning languages

30 September 2015 (The Scotsman)

We all remember the days of trying not to laugh when we looked up dirty words in the German dictionary to use at each other through out the rest of the school.

But is there any actual benefit to learning a foreign language in high school?

The answer is a resounding yes.

From economic, to cognitive development, Fhiona Fisher of Scotland’s National Centre for Languages believes there are numerous reasons to learn a second language.


Don't rely on Google – invest in languages to grow your business

29 September 2015 (The Guardian)

It’s easy to feel intimidated by the prospect of selling in another language. According to research from the British Council, around three-quarters of British people don’t speak another language well enough to have a basic conversation, let alone sell a product or negotiate a deal. But it’s well worth getting over that language barrier. A recent report from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) found that the UK is losing out on an incredible £48bn a year in lost exports as a direct result of its lack of language skills.


Language study beyond school

11 September 2015 (SCILT)

Do you have students looking to further or develop their language learning on leaving school? Make sure they know about the Beyond School section of the SCILT website. With useful information on different language courses and options available here in Scotland, there are also links to UCAS and language courses UK-wide to help their selection process and the transition from school.

The section includes advice and information on:

  • The benefits of language learning for you and your career 
  • Undergraduate language courses at Scottish and UK universities 
  • Options for combining languages with other degree subjects 
  • Beginner and refresher language courses and modules at Scotland’s colleges 
  • The gap year – opportunities to study, work or volunteer abroad 
  • The student voice – blogs, advice, hints and tips from those who’ve been there

The site also outlines the support Scottish universities can provide to teachers and schools in their language teaching and staff professional development.

So please make your language teaching professionals, pupils and guidance staff aware of the ‘Beyond School’ website. It’s got their language needs covered!


The earlier a second language is learnt the better

4 August 2015 (Day Nurseries UK)

According to British Council research, improving one’s employment prospects is the main driver for people overseas learning English, but many UK pupils are still experiencing a ‘minimal or fragmented’ second language learning because the UK still fails to recognise the many benefits of bilingualism.

In the day nursery sector, more and more providers are realising the need to focus on a bilingual upbringing, for the long-term advantages that learning a second language can have on intellect and life prospects, even though foreign language learning remains non-compulsory during the early years and most UK children will have no exposure to it until later education.


Baffled Brits abroad pick the wrong loo because we can't read foreign languages

23 July 2015 (The Mirror)

With toilet mix-ups not the only howler we commit when we head overseas, it might be an idea to learn the word for 'sorry' before you get on the plane.


People who speak two languages ‘have better brains’

16 July 2015 (The Scotsman)

People who speak two or more languages have better functioning brains, a study found.

Being bilingual increased the size of the part of the brain responsible for processing thoughts than those that speak their mother tongue, researchers found.


How Your Brain Benefits From Learning Multiple Languages

30 June 2015 (Lifehacker)

Learning a second language is great for travelling and getting a better paying job. It can also make your brain healthier and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

This TED-Ed video clip explains the different type of multilingual speakers and how speaking multiple languages helps your brain stay healthy.


Finding the right words

11 June 2015 (THE)

To write well, knowledge of other languages is crucial, says Felipe Fernández-Armesto.


Why I wish I had pursued foreign languages

3 June 2015 (Wales Online)

Our columnist laments her lack of scholarly attention on languages and her 16-year-old self ignoring the benefits of learning a foreign language.


Do you see what I see? Children exposed to several languages are better at seeing through others’ eyes

30 May 2015 (The Economist)

Human beings are not born with the knowledge that others possess minds with different contents. Children develop such a “theory of mind” gradually, and even adults have it only imperfectly. But a study by Samantha Fan and Zoe Liberman at the University of Chicago, published in Psychological Science, finds that bilingual children, and also those simply exposed to another language on a regular basis, have an edge at the business of getting inside others’ minds.


Blog: 'But Miss, why do I need to learn French?'

11 May 2015 (Cambridge Assessment blog)

I’m not sure my class mates and I ever received a convincing answer to this question. But, at 11, what I didn’t know was that learning another language (or two) would open up possibilities I’d never imagined.

What’s more, blissfully ignorant in my monolingual bubble, I had no idea that I was in the global minority. Or as Bernadette Holmes provocatively put it in her opening address at the Westminster Education Forum last month, that I was ‘locked inside the prison of English’. It’s estimated that more than half of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual and there are figures to show that there are more second-language speakers of English than there are native speakers. So, while knowing English may be an advantage given its increasing global use, it’s unlikely to be enough.


How the language you speak changes your view of the world

27 April 2015 (The Conversation)

Bilinguals get all the perks. Better job prospects, a cognitive boost and even protection against dementia. Now new research shows that they can also view the world in different ways depending on the specific language they are operating in.

The past 15 years have witnessed an overwhelming amount of research on the bilingual mind, with the majority of the evidence pointing to the tangible advantages of using more than one language. Going back and forth between languages appears to be a kind of brain training, pushing your brain to be flexible.

Just as regular exercise gives your body some biological benefits, mentally controlling two or more languages gives your brain cognitive benefits. This mental flexibility pays big dividends especially later in life: the typical signs of cognitive ageing occur later in bilinguals – and the onset of age-related degenerative disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s are delayed in bilinguals by up to five years.


Gaelic pupils helping tackle dementia

8 April 2015 (BBC News)

Pupils in Inverness are helping native Gaelic speakers who have been diagnosed with dementia.
A care home has been welcoming the Gaelic-speaking school children to help residents retain their memories.

Watch the video report from BBC Scotland's Huw Williams.


Related Links

Gaelic conversations help Inverness dementia sufferers (BBC News, 8 April 2015)

Stop Telling Students Their Languages Degrees Are Useless

30 March 2015 (Huffington Post)

Please don't tell me how much my degree is worth. If you're being awkward, it is actually worth somewhere between £28,350 and £36,000 (I'm too afraid to do an actual run of the numbers), which is statistically more than you have ever paid or will ever pay if you are a student from the UK. But really, what is a language degree worth? At the end of the day, I'm paying all this money for something more than a certificate and a photo opportunity on graduation day... right?


Learning a language in later life: are you ever too old?

18 March 2015 (The Guardian)

From keeping loneliness at bay and delaying dementia, to reconnecting with your cultural roots, Sarah Johnson speaks to three people to discover the wide benefits of language learning.


The elixir of languages - Unlocking your true potential

10 February 2015 (Wolfestone)

This blogpost gives reasons why language learning is good for self-confidence, careers, intellect, as well as providing us with the key for unlocking a clearer comprehension of the world.


Why the world should learn German - and why Germany should care

6 February 2015 (Deutsche Welle)

Money makes the world go round and fills German language classrooms. Socio-linguist Ulrich Ammon explains how those grammar lessons give you an edge and why Germany should promote its language more actively.


New job profiles on the SCILT website

6 February 2015 (SCILT)

Let your pupils see that languages are valuable in the world of work by visiting the 'Job Profiles' section of the SCILT website. People from a range of sectors - including sport, marketing, technology and many more - explain how language learning has influenced their professional lives.

We have 3 new additions to the section:

  • Peter Cawston - a GP who describes how languages have helped enrich his career and broaden his perspectives
  • Dr Sophie Williams - a lecturer in conservation science, currently based in China, who shares her experience of learning Chinese
  • Caroline McManus - former cabin crew, now teaching English in Barcelona, tells how her ability to speak Spanish has proved beneficial

See these and other job profiles on our website now.


Eddie Izzard: There is no ‘British’ humour

5 February 2015 (The Guardian)

Multilingual comedian Eddie Izzard on making people laugh in another language, human sacrifice, and why comedy will never be the same again.


The many benefits of language learning

3 February 2015 (The Telegraph)

Although it feels like the world is ever expanding, it's really becoming a smaller place. The unknown is there to be discovered – we can travel anywhere in a short amount of time, meet people from different cultures without having to venture further than the local shop, and start learning languages by switching on a computer.

Needless to say, learning languages increases brainpower. There are many scientific studies that show how learning and using languages can make you more perceptive and improve your memory.

[..]Learning languages is not easy, but it’s undeniably worthwhile, and, in fact, almost essential nowadays. As companies across the world are expanding overseas and working closely with other countries, it is becoming more crucial to adapt – and, in this case, adaptation is language learning.


Dónde está our love of language learning?

30 January 2015 (TES)

The old stereotype of monolingual Brits is more true than ever, but it’s no joke. Adult education is key to remedying this ignorance

The decline in language learning in the UK is causing a crisis, in business and in culture. It’s not rocket science that if you are trading with someone who speaks another language, it helps if you can communicate with each other. Likewise, being able to order a drink, ask for directions and translate a menu enhances the experience of overseas travel, just as being able to hold a conversation (however slowly) or read the paper in the local language enriches understanding of a region.


What Makes Bill Gates Feel Stupid

28 January 2015 (Live Science)

Bill Gates built the world's largest software company, and with his billions, he's also become one of the world's most prolific philanthropists. But there's still one thing that he says makes him feel dumb: not being able to speak a foreign language.

Gates took questions from the public today (Jan. 28) in his third Reddit "Ask Me Anything" forum online. One participant asked the Microsoft co-founder: "Is there anything in life that you regret doing or not doing?"

Gates replied: "I feel pretty stupid that I don't know any foreign languages. I took Latin and Greek in high school and got A's and I guess it helps my vocabulary, but I wish I knew French or Arabic or Chinese. I keep hoping to get time to study one of these — probably French because it is the easiest."


Language and Listening (A point of view)

16 January 2015 (BBC Radio 4)

AL Kennedy reflects on the importance of learning languages and listening to one another. "More words give me more paths to and from the hearts of others, more points of view - I don't think that's a bad thing."


Learning a second language can ‘boost thinking’

16 January 2015 (Scotsman)

Learning a second language can help improve a person’s thinking skills, a new study has suggested. Researchers compared 200 modern languages and humanities students to assess the impact of learning a second language.


Related Links

Bilingualism changes children's beliefs

13 January 2015 (Science Daily)

Most young children are essentialists: They believe that human and animal characteristics are innate. That kind of reasoning can lead them to think that traits like native language and clothing preference are intrinsic rather than acquired. But a new study suggests that certain bilingual kids are more likely to understand that it's what one learns, rather than what one is born with, that makes up a person's psychological attributes.


Related Links

Give Your Child the Gift of Bilingualism (Bilingualism Matters blog, 14 January 2015)

Learning a language helps me talk back to the voice of depression

13 January 2015 (The Guardian)

Depression and anxiety often makes your world feel small, and your options few. Languages help me connect with the things I used to care about.


Why teenagers should want to learn languages

5 January 2015 (Wolfestone blog)

For most young teenagers, the future is a distant land. The world of work is a lifetime away, schooling and education is a mere necessity and communication is the key to ensuring the only success relevant at that age: social success. What skills are needed to ensure this success? Strong communication skills, ambition, confidence, an open mind, an awareness and understanding of other languages and cultures, tolerance and compassion to number but a few.
But how does one gain these skills?


New job profile on the SCILT website

11 December 2014 (SCILT)

Let your pupils see that languages are valuable in the world of work by visiting the 'Job Profiles' section of the SCILT website. People from a range of sectors - including sport, marketing, technology and many more - explain how language learning has influenced their professional lives.

Our latest addition to the section comes from the Reverend Alan Miller, who describes his language learning experiences and passion for Chinese.

See this and other job profiles on our website now.


Pupils put language skills to the test

3 December 2014 (Brechin Advertiser)

Brechin High School pupils, along with other Angus secondary school pupils, took part in an ‘on the job’ workshop to test their language skills.

The event saw pupils having to provide a solution to two real-life humanitarian crisis scenarios, and it required them to work on a solution and present the solution in French.

The first of the two scenarios involved the pupils assisting an engineer or medic from the Royal Navy to make them understood when they are operating within the challenging situation of a humanitarian crisis.

The solution had to be weather proof, easy to use, durable and effective. The pupils were also shown examples of what may or may not work and be asked to identify useful phrases that need to be included.

In the second scenario, pupils were asked to use their language skills to explore the properties needed for a building to withstand a Tsunami. Each group was given a budget and had to design a village within these constraints.


Languages for life

24 November 2014 (Angus Council)

School pupils in Angus recently took part in an ‘on the job’ workshop which used their language skills in real-life humanitarian crisis scenarios.

At the workshop, pupils had to provide a solution to two real-life crisis scenarios which required them to work on a solution and present the solution in French.

The top eight winning teams were selected from each project by the school staff and they will now compete in a Dragon’s Den Panel consisting of Naval, Angus and SCILT staff on 17 December.


'Language learning opens up new horizons'

20 November 2014 (The Telegraph)

It's worrying that so few pupils continue with languages, says Frances Suc-Diamond, especially when they open the door to new horizons.


Learning a language is never a waste of time

20 November 2014 (The Telegraph)

Whether it’s computer code or Sanskrit, our brains benefit from having to work harder.


Learn the lingo and live longer: Foreign languages makes for more brain cells

16 November 2014 (The Independent)

"Ik spreek goed Nederlands" (I speak good Dutch); that's the phrase which brought the house down during a recent visit to my Dutch in-laws' in Rotterdam. Personally, I think I've had more inspired moments of comedy but, for Dutch people, there's obviously something inherently hilarious about an English person attempting to speak their language.

The English have a well-earned reputation as the language-learning dunces of Europe, and traditionally that didn't bother us much. Taking a language at GCSE ceased to be compulsory in 2004, and since then the number of people studying languages at degree level has fallen to a record low. There's an obvious logic to this. Everyone else speaks English anyway, and as for those who don't, simply repeating the same phrase more loudly and with a cod Spanish accent usually suffices, right? So why bother?

Here's why. A new study by Pennsylvania University shows that language-learning keeps the brain healthy and sharp as we age, reducing the likelihood of early-onset dementia.


Related Links

Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young and old (Penn State News, 12 November 2014)

Languages for their future: support your students as they consider studying languages beyond school

31 October 2014 (SCILT)

Do you have students who are thinking about continuing with languages when they leave school? As the UCAS application process gets underway, the Beyond School section of our website contains useful information to help them decide on the different language courses and options available:

There’s lots of information on…

  • Languages – the benefits for you and your career
  • Undergraduate language courses at Scottish and UK universities – what’s available where
  • Enhance your degree – options for combining languages with other subjects
  • The gap year – opportunities to study, work or volunteer abroad
  • Student experiences – advice from those who’ve been there, done it and got the t-shirt!

Please make your pupils, guidance and careers staff aware of the ‘Beyond School’ website. It covers all their language needs -


Jane Seymour: ‘Everyone should know another language’

24 October 2014 (Guardian)

Actor Jane Seymour’s mother learned Japanese and Malay while in an Indonesian concentration camp. She shares how this has shaped her attitudes to language learning/


Why Learning A Language Could Save Your Career

23 October 2014 (Forbes)

In today’s Millennial-saturated job market, it can be hard for even the most talented and experienced boomers to preserve their competitive advantage. However, there is a rare skill that makes hiring managers sit up and take notice: fluency in a high-demand, low-supply language.
Whether your goal is to remain relevant in your current position, switch jobs or launch an encore career, acquiring a second language could set you apart from the sea of qualified (and younger) job applicants.


Why English isn’t enough

15 October 2014 (British Academy)

The question is often asked: Why should young British people worry about learning other languages if everyone else in the world places such an emphasis on the importance of developing a perfect command of English? But that is exactly the point. In the words of the Australian specialist in language education, Jo Lo Bianco: “There are two disadvantages in global language arrangements: one is not knowing English; and the other is knowing only English.”


The Forum: Multilingualism

27 September 2014 (BBC Radio 4)

How is the brain affected by juggling between different languages and how does this affect identity? And what is the impact on a child's development if they speak one language at home and another at school? Bridget Kendall talks to poet and cultural critic Gustavo Perez Firmat, developmental linguistics researcher Antonella Sorace, and cognitive development specialist Ellen Bialystok.


How a Second Language Trains Your Brain for Math

24 September 2014 (Pacific Standard Magazine)

Second languages strengthen the brain’s executive control circuits, with benefits beyond words.


What happens in the brain when you learn a language?

4 September 2014 (The Guardian)

Learning a foreign language can increase the size of your brain. This is what Swedish scientists discovered when they used brain scans to monitor what happens when someone learns a second language. The study is part of a growing body of research using brain imaging technologies to better understand the cognitive benefits of language learning. Tools like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electrophysiology, among others, can now tell us not only whether we need knee surgery or have irregularities with our heartbeat, but reveal what is happening in our brains when we hear, understand and produce second languages.


Lack of languages stifles Brits and Americans

8 July 2014 (The Guardian)

Why learn a second language if everyone speaks English? To better understand a culture, or boost your employability in the global economy, finds a Guardian roundtable.


Project Trust

13 June 2014 (SCILT)

Are you looking for inspiring ways to promote the learning of languages in primary or secondary schools? Project Trust may have something to offer you!

Visit our website to hear the experiences of volunteers who have completed a gap year in various countries.


Bilingualism is good for you. But monoglots needn't despair

6 June 2014 (The Guardian)

Learning another language is wonderful. You may not completely buy the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis – the deliciously sci-fi name given by linguists to the idea that the words we use determine the thoughts we think. But knowing that the French have "fat mornings" instead of lie-ins, or that in Farsi the part of you that gets broken is not the heart but the gut, gives you a level of insight into the modes and mores of a culture that it is impossible to get by any other means.


Learning second language 'slows brain ageing'

2 June 2014 (BBC News)

Learning a second language can have a positive effect on the brain, even if it is taken up in adulthood, a University of Edinburgh study suggests.

Researchers found that reading, verbal fluency and intelligence were improved in a study of 262 people tested either aged 11 or in their seventies.

A previous study suggested that being bilingual could delay the onset of dementia by several years.


We need to promote UK language graduates to employers!

9 May 2014 (Lizzie Fane blog - founder of ThirdYearAbroad)

The number of students studying languages in the UK is at a record low, but thankfully, while the outlook is not bright, there has always been a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether or not you believe the excuses bandied about, ranging from English being the global language and exams being too difficult, to advancements in technology rendering bilingualism more a novelty than a required skill, the business case for language learning is undeniable.


Owls stars discuss languages at Ecclesfield School

9 May 2014 (Look Local)

Two Sheffield Wednesday stars shared their linguistic skills with pupils at Ecclesfield Secondary School last week.

Jose Semedo, originally from Portugal, and Spanish-born Miguel Llera ran a question and answer session with language pupils aged 12-13 at the secondary school last Thursday.

The session, which was facilitated by the Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme, saw Jose and Miguel talk about their experience of being a footballer adapting to living in England and the benefits of learning a foreign language.


Will the UK universities cope if English no longer rules the world?

6 May 2014 (The Guardian)

Being an English-speaking country is a blessing – and a curse. It is a blessing to be native speakers of the language of Shakespeare – and the language of world science and popular culture (and financial capitalism … well, maybe not).

The success of UK science is built not just on its excellence but also its English, which since the decline of the Soviet Union has been the only serious global scientific language. The success of UK universities in recruiting international students also owes a great deal to our language.

But it is also a curse. As the incentives to learn other languages decline year by year, we are increasingly locked into an anglophone prison. It may be an advantage to travel almost everywhere and be "understood". But maybe our ability really to understand, to get inside, other cultures is also declining. The Chinese speak English; not many of us speak Mandarin. Who has the advantage?


Michelle Obama supports studying abroad for "bridges of understanding"

CIHAN Beta (22 March 2014)

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama on Saturday called on students to study abroad to build "bridges of understanding" during her visit to a Beijing university. 

"Studying abroad is about so much more than improving your own future. It's about shaping the future of your countries and of the world we all share," Obama said in a speech at the Stanford Center of the prestigious Peking University. 

[...] "By learning each other's languages and by showing such curiosity and respect for each other's cultures, you are building bridges of understanding that lead to so much more," she told an audience of about 200 students from China and America.


Can Learning a New Language Boost Your Creativity?

20 March 2014 (Huffington Post)

I became fascinated with the question of what relationship exists, if any, between foreign language ability and creativity after reading Earnest Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises this past summer. The novel takes its readers on a trilingual adventure from the cafés of Paris to the bullfighting rings of Pamplona. Hemmingway himself spoke both French and Spanish, in addition to his native English, and though his exact ability in each is a matter for debate, it is clear from clips like this one that he was at least fully bilingual.


Why UK schools need foreign languages now

17 March 2014 (British Council blog)

Good intentions alone will not help us introduce languages such as Chinese and Arabic into the curriculum. If we want to thrive in a global society, we need to take firm action now, says the British Council’s Vicky Gough.


Johnson: What is a foreign language worth?

11 March 2014 (The Economist)

There are pros and cons to language-learning. The pros are that working in a foreign language can make people make better decisions (research Johnson covered here) and that bilingualism helps with executive function in children and dementia in older people (covered here). The cons: one study finds that the earnings bonus for an American who learns a foreign language is just 2%. If you make $30,000 a year, sniffs Mr Dubner, that’s just $600.


The cost of a lack of language skills

27 February 2014 (ECML)

According to the Guardian, the lack of language skills costs the UK £48bn per year. For companies willing to trade internationally, “English only” is not enough and the difficulty to find skilled staff results in a loss of contracts, in recruiting locally seconded expats and more generally in difficulties to operate globally.

In all business areas, whether marketing, export, sales, but also in legal matters, language skills do play a crucial role. The cost of communication barriers has been well documented in the ELAN study - Effects on the European Economy of Shortages of Foreign Language Skills in Enterprise which sought to estimate the cost to EU business of not having foreign language skills. The survey that has been carried out among almost 2000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) showed that languages on top of the wish lists of European SMEs, apart from English, were German, French, Russian and Spanish. English is clearly an extremely important language for international exchange but will not be enough to face future challenges.


Football-mad teenager grabs moment with Lionel Messi using Spanish she learnt at school

17 February 2014 (Manchester Evening News)

Isabella Schiavo, 14, from New Moston, was one of the dozens of fans waiting at Manchester Airport this afternoon for the arrival of the Barcelona squad ahead of their clash with City.

It seemed that she and the rest of the adoring public, crammed into Terminal Two, were out of luck as Messi and most of his fellow stars were whisked straight through the arrivals hall and onto the team coach.

However die-hard City fan Isabella managed to grab a moment with Messi using Spanish she had learnt at school to grab his attention.


A celebration of language learning

10 December 2013 (The Guardian)

November was a bright month for languages in an otherwise gloomy year. It heralded the British Academy's Language Festival, a month-long event staged in the wake of a series of revelations over the past year that have crystallised the urgency of addressing the UK's poor grasp of foreign languages.

A number of significant findings – such as the closure of university language departments, less than half of GCSE students studying a language and three-quarters of UK adults being unable to speak any of the 10 most important foreign languages – have brought the country's language issue into sharp focus.

"In celebrating the importance of language learning and the UK's diverse cultural heritage, the festival provided a platform for schools, universities, students, policymakers and employers from across the UK to debate and explore the wide-ranging benefits of language learning," says Nigel Vincent, vice-president of research and higher education policy at the British Academy.


If you talk to the locals in their language, you understand their needs

6 December 2013 (The Guardian)

Languages can make a career in development not only more effective, but also more rewarding.
Ajaz Khan, 45, is the microfinance advisor for CARE International and talks to Louise Tickle about his experience.

I was born in the UK, but my dad came here from Pakistan in 1955, so we spoke Punjabi at home. Growing up bilingual definitely gives you a headstart. When I was younger, I'd go to a Sunday school for Muslim children, where I learned Urdu, and I also had to learn Arabic script at the mosque which I attended five days a week after school.

As a child living in two languages, moving between them is a given: it's not confusing. I've noticed it with my own kids, they just switch depending on whom they're talking to. At secondary school, I studied French, German and Latin, but oddly, looking back, I grew up thinking I wasn't very good at languages. That's probably a result of how we were taught. It was all about conjugating verbs – but of course, when you went abroad no one ever asked you to conjugate a verb!


Language research to influence education

5 December 2013 (The Daily Cougar - USA)

The Laboratory for the Neural Bases of Bilingualism has published a new research study on bilingualism and how new languages are assimilated in the brain.

The six-month research explained why certain individuals were better at detecting speech sounds instead of vocabulary words. The different possible factors ranged from socioeconomic status, genetics and even musical ability. Director of the LNBB and developmental psychology professor Arturo Hernandez used brain activity to determine whether bilinguals are better than monolinguals at learning a new language.

“I would hope the results of this research would allow us to dramatically change the time at which we introduce a second language and the method that we use, such as a stronger emphasis on learning the sounds of a language rather than learning vocabulary and memorizing it for a test,” Hernandez said.


A language skills deficit is damaging diplomacy, warns British Academy

26 November 2013 (The Guardian)

Britain's language skills deficit is threatening its diplomatic influence and national security, a report by the British Academy has found.

The British Academy, the national body for the humanities and social sciences, calls for government to address the lack of language skills across all its departments and to prioritise the development of these skills among current staff and future generations. The report warns that if more is not done to bridge the languages gap that exists within government, Britain's diplomatic influence will be damaged.

"Languages are a critical tool through which UK diplomats and government staff can deepen their knowledge and build the trust that is necessary to promote and protect British values and interests internationally," Robin Niblett, chair of the British Academy inquiry steering group, said.
"If steps are not taken to reverse the current declining trend in language skills, Britain may indeed be in danger of becoming 'lost for words'."


Let's meet in the cafe, I'll be the one with a French dictionary under my arm

21 November 2013 (The Guardian)

We arrange to meet after just two e-mails. As I stand outside the cafe, not knowing who to look out for, I wonder whether we'll get on. I don't care if he's attractive. I don't even mind if he's married. I just hope I don't say his name wrong, or make things tense by commenting on his irregular past.

This is not a date, but a foreign language exchange. Our hour of small talk over coffee will be roughly split in half between English and my exchange partner's mother tongue, which I am learning. We correct each other as we go along, offering idiomatic vocabulary or pronunciation tips when needed, like a free private lesson.


Languages need to be continued by all

15 November 2013 (The Independent)

The inevitable hordes of students celebrating up and down the country this summer after surviving their GCSEs and A Levels. Many of them felt relief at having completed their last ever French lesson, free to throw their Tricolore textbooks away and settle down to work they find more interesting, never again to wonder about how the Smith family would cope when ordering food on holiday in Provence.

But before Francophiles everywhere throw their arms up in protest at the news that yet more Brits have given up the quest to massacre their beloved language, the same fate is also true for German, Spanish and Italian.

While our European counterparts are renowned for their linguistic prowess, Blighty’s residents are mocked for our reticence to persist with anything more taxing beyond “Parlez-vous English?” Although military-style grammar drills and toe-curlingly awkward conversations may dominate our memories of childhood language lessons, venturing beyond phrase-book vocabulary arms us with a wealth of practical skills that range from effective communication skills to approaching French and German literary output with confidence.


Study: Speaking 2 languages delays dementia

14 November 2013 (WZZM 13)

A study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology is offering new evidence supporting the benefits of speaking two languages.

The study was designed to determine the association between bilingualism and it's affect on dementia.


Celebrity Linguists

25 September 2013 (TES)

List of celebrity quotes about the value of language learning from CILT, put into powerpoint, plus pictures (Google Images) for corridor display.

You will need a TES userid and password to access the resource.


Languages on ice: fluency or floe – which will it be?

8 October 2013 (The Guardian)

It is a paradox of British higher education that our international profile has never been more important, yet fewer universities are offering language degrees. No wonder the government is worried that British graduates will be unable to make it in the global environment. Are we sleepwalking into tongue-tied isolation?


Educating Yorkshire's Mr Mitchell talks MFL

3 October 2013 (Teachit Languages)

Unless you’ve been living on the moon recently, you surely can’t have escaped the media furore around Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire. The students and staff of Dewsbury’s Thornhill Academy are keeping us entertained every Thursday…in the journalistic scoop of the century, Teachit Languages editor Heike Bruton managed to secure an interview with Thornhill Academy’s headteacher, Jonny Mitchell!


Languages for All?

1 October 2013 (Inside Higher Ed)

The organizers of Monday's daylong "Languages For All?" conference at the University of Maryland said more than once that the event, in the words of the university's Director of Language Policy Initiatives Richard Brecht, "is not about advocacy, this is about inquiry." But it was clear that the 150 or so professors, researchers, policy makers and government employees in attendance vehemently promote at least one stance: that languages are critical, and that Americans' unwillingness and/or disinterest in learning them is holding the country back.


The importance of languages in the curriculum

30 September 2013 (Great Education Debate)

Teaching foreign languages to English speaking children in a world where the international lingua franca is English is a proposition that deserves some exploration and justification. In non-English speaking countries, learning English is more akin to studying a key skill or a core subject, such as mathematics. There is no reason even to hesitate over its importance or centrality, just as no one in medieval Europe would have questioned the importance of Latin in the curriculum of the educated.
However, for us, it is different. How does one justify the inclusion of a (randomly or historically chosen) language in the curriculum for our secondary or primary schools?


Gary Lineker: Schools don't take foreign languages seriously enough

26 September 2013 (TES)

He is better known for his views on football, but former England striker and TV personality Gary Lineker has claimed foreign languages are not taken seriously enough on the national curriculum.

The host of Match of the Day was speaking to TES about the importance of learning languages for young people today, adding that it was more relevant to their every day lives than other subjects such as the sciences.

Himself a fluent Spanish speaker after a successful three-year career playing for Barcelona, Mr Lineker believes students should learn a foreign tongue because it will always be useful in later life.


Related Links

Gary Lineker kickstarts language learning in schools (The Guardian, 26 September 2013)

UK Education: Make Language a Core Skill

9 September 2013 (Huffington Post)

How many languages can you speak? The likely answer is one, English. The reason is that you probably studied languages briefly in secondary school, perhaps have a GCSE or O Level, but then rarely or never used what was learned again - and so the skill vanished.

Traditionally, this hasn't really presented a problem for most people. Many other countries speak English to a reasonable level and it has for a long time been the business language. Perhaps it's therefore unsurprising that we have lost sight of language's power to open up the world to us. But things are changing and other languages are becoming more prevalent as technology is enabling us to easily connect and interact in a culturally, commercially and linguistically diverse world.


What does research show about the benefits of language learning?

1 September 2013 (Observatoire européen du plurilinguisme)

In this age of accountability in education, policymakers and administrators, as well as parents, are increasingly demanding to know what research studies show regarding the benefits of language learning. This document, published by the American Council on the teaching of Foreign Languages, will identify some of the major correlation studies that highlight how language learners benefit from their experiences.


Why are modern languages failing to grip the younger generation?

30 April 2013 (BBC Radio Scotland)

Listen to today's episode of 'Call Kaye' where callers are invited to discuss the declining numbers of Scottish pupils taking language learning to Standard Grade and Higher levels.  Callers are asked what should be done to address the situation, or whether language learning is actually necessary in today's society.

The programme is available on the BBC iPlayer until Monday 6 May 2013.  Listen to this item from 38.38 minutes into the broadcast.


Why I'm glad I gave languages a second chance

18 February 2013 (The Guardian)

Don't let poor school grades put you off studying a language. Years abroad and evening classes mean there are plenty of ways to learn.


Mandarin competition may lead to study in China

6 February 2013 (British Council)

Nishat Ali writes about her experience of taking part in the HSBC/British Council Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition, and how winning the contest has changed her life.


TES webchat - How learning foreign languages can improve students' understanding of English

31 January 2013 (TES)

TES MFL subject adviser Rachel Hawkes looks at how foreign languages learning can support literacy without us needing to use English. The chat will be an informal way for you to share ideas on the topic as well as ask questions and seek advice from Rachel and each other.


Très bien! Speaking two languages from childhood keeps brain in good shape as we age

9 January 2013 (Daily Mail)

Hours spent in language classes struggling with masculine and feminine nouns and upside down punctuation may all be worth it, say scientists. For pensioners who learn a second tongue as children have far sharper brains when they reach their sixties.


Accent is on language as Scots coaches prepare to start SFA’s UEFA Pro Licence course

6 January 2013 (Daily Record)

Football has become global. And Scotland’s managers are about to follow suit.

The latest candidates for the SFA’s UEFA Pro Licence will gather at Hampden today to kick off the two-year course they now need to boss at the elite level of European football.

But for the first time since the course began in 1999, candidates must learn a second language as part of their studies.


Reasoning is sharper in a foreign language

25 November 2012 (Scientific American)

The language we use affects the decisions we make, according to a new study. Participants made more rational decisions when money-related choices were posed in a foreign language that they had learned in a classroom setting than when they were asked in a native tongue.


New approach to language teaching is unveiled

18 November 2012 (Falkirk Herald)

Bold plans to make language lessons a key part of every child’s classroom experience have been unveiled. The Scottish Government has announced it aims to introduce the European Union 1+2 method of teaching over the course of two parliaments. It will mean putting the resources in place to allow every child to learn two languages in addition to their own mother tongue and is driven by a determination to deliver equality for hundreds of thousands of young Scots


Foreign Languages took pride of place at the Institute of Welsh Affairs / Western Mail Business Awards

16 November 2012 (CILT Cymru)

On Friday the 9th of November, the profile of Modern Foreign Languages was raised at the Institute of Welsh Affairs / Western Mail Business Awards.

The newly created Award, The Best Use of Foreign Languages in Business Award recognised those Welsh companies who actively use foreign languages to develop strong markets abroad.


Why do we continue to isolate ourselves by only speaking English?

5 November 2012 (Observer)

Britain's future economic and political wellbeing is being hamstrung by our reluctance to learn foreign languages.


Why global awareness matters to schools

5 November 2012 (Guardian)

Schools are increasingly finding ways to help students develop as global citizens. But can we do more to incorporate global issues into the curriculum?

... The vast majority of businesses believe schools should help young people to think more globally and four out of every five believe schools should be doing more. Significantly, twice as many business leaders rate knowledge and awareness of the wider world as an important skill as ability to speak a foreign language. While they still regard language skills as important it is the 'soft' skills of cultural awareness and understanding global issues that are particularly valued.


Interview: Sarah Breslin

2 November 2012 (TESS)

The director of SCILT, Scotland's National Centre for Languages based at the University of Strathclyde, talks about the 1+2 policy, the benefits of CfE and how to persuade pupils to stick with languages.


Related Links

A reader's response to the TESS Interview: Sarah Breslin (2 November)

"This has been a most interesting article to read. Many thanks to Sarah for all her hard work and support of the MFL teachers in Scotland. We are lucky to have such a fantastic professional with great personality. The 1+2 is an ambitious but not impossible goal to achieve - if all stakeholders are willing to work together for the benefit of generations to come."  (rosered27, TES Letters, 9 November 2012)

The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual

31 October 2012 (The Dana Foundation)

Today, more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual. In addition to facilitating cross-cultural communication, this trend also positively affects cognitive abilities. Researchers have shown that the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain, thanks to its developed ability to inhibit one language while using another.


Baroness Coussins speaks about MFL and Erasmus scheme in House of Lords

12th October 2012 (LLAS news blog)

My Lords, I shall focus on what the report says about student mobility in relation to the Erasmus scheme and the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages.


Language Learning Makes the Brain Grow, Swedish Study Suggests

8 October 2012 (Science Daily)

At the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy, young recruits learn a new language at a very fast pace. By measuring their brains before and after the language training, a group of researchers has had an almost unique opportunity to observe what happens to the brain when we learn a new language in a short period of time.

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