It’s too early to tell what the Referendum outcome will do to the status of European languages in the UK. One thing that stands out most at this time is the shortage of teachers in Modern Foreign Languages!
This is already endangering the sustainability of the Modern Foreign Languages even before the Referendum! Now the fix it quick using the obvious solution – to recruit native speaking language teachers from France, Spain and Germany to plug the gap – has been very much undermined.
The consequent of the past policies mistakenly put in place has seen the closing of many Modern Languages departments in UK universities, and an obvious native language teacher shortage that is contributing to the country’s trade deficit with the EU because the UK’s foreign language expertise is lessening along with our languages graduates.
The overall picture is that we are losing the academic infrastructure that is necessary to equip our children across the UK with the language skills and the cultural insight they need to be confident citizens of a global world that EU citizens from other countries can often move with greater ease!
Later this will damage the motivation to learn modern foreign languages. Young adults and children choose languages for GCSE or A-levels not because it’s useful for a future career choice, or because it will assist ordering a drink on holiday or to ask which way to the beach, but because they have an inspirational teacher, who make the subject enjoyable experience, and may open the possibility of discovering a whole new world, a new identity even when visiting a country or through a film or book where the language comes to life.
The number of inspiring native speaking teachers is decreasing and school exchanges are becoming a victim of red tape – which is going to be the real winner of the Referendums outcome.
We need to work together Parents, Schools, language communities, cultural institutions, the creative industries and businesses to give our young people opportunities to develop the languages they may already know from home, and expand their linguistic horizons in order to be able to appreciate the value of cultural diversity.
Languages are above all about cultural identity, and as such a vital part of human life in a global world that is unlikely ever to become so culturally and linguistically needy that everyone will speak only global English!
So let us make this Referendum a WAKE UP CALL to us all of the importance of modern foreign languages and the cultural exposure they offer our children and young adults across the UK!