The Telegraph reports that figures published on Thursday by the Joint Qualifications Council (JCQ) show that the number of entries for modern foreign languages (MFL) has fallen by more than 7 per cent per cent overall, with the number of French exams falling by a tenth and German by 13.2 per cent.
Similar declines were recorded in last week’s A-level results, whilst the number of British students taking languages has almost halved over the last two decades.
Commenting on the trend, Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham said that British children were “spoiled” and had grown up in a “world where everyone speaks English, everything they read and watch is in English or is translated, and when they do need to translate they have access to tools such as Google translate.”
“The Government has been trying to promote the entries into French and German through the Ebacc, it’s part of the core subjects they want to see children taking,” he added.
“We’ve got into a cycle of people not studying it very well, which means that we have fewer teachers, and because we have fewer teachers most students don’t start learning a language until secondary school.
“It’s not surprising that many students fluent in languages have been brought up in embassies or abroad, because they’ve been exposed to it from a younger age. The essence of the problem is we don’t start languages early enough, and bad habits are established.”
The decline has also concerned Government ministers, including the Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who yesterday wrote in The Telegraph that Britain cannot rely “on the ubiquity of English” in order to prosper as a “global trading nation”.
To maintain British economic power, he added that there can be no “excuse for refusing to speak to our customers in their own language.”
How can schools encourage more pupils to learn a second language? Make it compulsory to GCSE level? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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