The UK as a whole is underachieving in language learning. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, nearly three quarters of us think that everyone in the EU should be able to speak a second language in addition to their mother tongue, and 69% think that improving language skills should be a priority. However, only 9% of British teenagers progress beyond a basic level in a foreign language, compared to an average of 42% across all countries in the survey.
According to the British Council, the UK’s monolingualism is having severe economic ramifications. They state that there are “clear economic risks if we are not able to change the UK’s attitude towards language learning. In a modern, globalised world with complex international business relationships, it is not good enough to only be able to communicate in English.” So, how can we progress more students with language learning in further education (FE)?
FE teachers to get more multi linguists in the workplace
Further education colleges offer the chance for British students to gain job prospects by learning a foreign language, while providing the means for students from other backgrounds the chance to learn English.
The FE sector is specifically designed to set up young people for higher education and the world of work. It gives students the chance at what they want to achieve in life, using skills that appeal to direct employment opportunities, such as in engineering, science or languages.
Multi-linguists are the ideal candidates for a career in further education, both for FE jobs in languages to mentor new learners and for the business to they go on to work in. More multilingual speakers in the workplace will help break down the language barriers that exist in the UK.
Teach foreign languages in UK
Skill in another language helps us to communicate with more people, and increases our access to knowledge through research or literature published in a language other than our own.
Teaching a foreign language in FE jobs will not only be rewarding for students, it can also be incredibly rewarding for teachers. Even teachers who don’t speak a second should be encouraged to do so, and importantly encourage students to do so.
A 2014 survey from the Guardian found that 43% of the respondents felt better job prospects abroad would be the main benefits to learning another language. In fact, learning another language helps when looking for all FE jobs, not just language teachers. According to AoC Jobs, second languages will help you boost your career. If you speak a foreign language, you would have the opportunity to teach English abroad at further education institutions, but you can also teach your subject of choice in a different country.
Teaching English in further education
There are between 100,000 to 200,000 people living in the UK who speak little or no English. Although this number represents a very small percentage of the population—around 0.27%—not speaking English can cause these people to miss out on job prospects and suffer from social isolation.
The issue is particularly prevalent with muslim women. 22% of Muslim women said they speak English “not well” or “not at all”. For Muslim men the equivalent figure was 10%. Fortunately further education can help these women learn English, however there is a need for English language teachers to fill FE jobs.
To remedy the problem the government announced earlier this year a £20 million language fund for Muslim women. This fund will aim to create FE jobs and mean Muslim women will be able to utilise colleges to learn English. Speaking on the announcement of the fund, Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said that “Colleges will work with national and local government to support all communities to access English language courses at FE colleges as a means of helping them to integrate in society, to get into employment and to move off welfare benefits.”