The European Day of Languages is celebrated every year on the 26th of September (handily close to the beginning of term!) and is a great way of getting your students interested in learning a foreign language.
But, is it still important to encourage students to study a language in what will soon become a post-Brexit society?
The answer is yes. In fact, you could argue that it is now more important than ever to do so.
Students need to be encouraged to become language learners here in the UK – it’s still a skill that will benefit them when it comes to finding employment, as it means they will have the tools to deal directly with potential business partners, international colleagues or suppliers. And, of course, they’ll also have the opportunity to engage with the locals when on holiday.
But in order to raise competent linguists we need to start them from a young age!
The recent publication of the Language Trends Survey for 2018, which looked at the current situation for language learning and teaching in both primary and secondary schools in England, found that the percentage of students learning a foreign language stands at around 47% - a dramatic decrease when compared to 2002, when the figure was 76%.
It is thought that this massive drop could be due to the fact that languages were removed from the curriculum in 2004. This is supported by the fact that the number increased slightly from 40% in 2011 to 49% in 2014 when the English Baccalaureate was introduced.
However, this has since dropped again, and the rate of students learning languages seems to be locked in a downward spiral, with students continuing to choose to study languages less and less.
The study also indicated that there has been a negative shift in attitudes towards language learning due to Brexit. What with this and the fact that European Day of Languages is a Council of Europe initiative, it would be easy to assume that it no longer has relevance in a country that is in the process of leaving the European Union.
However, it’s important to remind people that, although the English language continues to dominate, it’s still not true that ‘everyone speaks English’ (despite what some may think!) and that being able to speak more than one language is a gift and one that could very well be vital for the future of this country.
The European Day of Languages is the perfect opportunity for your students to get involved with and excited about languages, and perhaps to inspire some future linguists. To help get you started, we’ve come up with a few fun activities:
Speak like a local!
Try our idiomatic phrases activity which will help your pupils learn how to say the equivalent of ‘to cost an arm and a leg’ or ‘like a bull in a china shop’ in various languages – something that is sure to make them giggle!
Learn how to talk about cultural heritage
This year is also the European Year of Cultural Heritage. We’ve created some vocab lists for your students to use on their school trip to help them use their target language to find out more about the local cultural heritage while exploring museums, art galleries and historic monuments.
Inspire your students!
Of course, the best way to get students enthused about learning languages is by taking them abroad where they can be immersed in the target language and culture. It’s an experience they’re sure never to forget!