This week, a report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) stated that the number of students undertaking a language degree is at its lowest level in a decade. In fact, between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 academic years, the number of acceptances onto Modern Foreign Language (MFL) courses fell by 22 per cent.
Around the same time that this report was announced, the Office for National Statistics released the February 2014 version of its Overseas Travel and Tourism dataset. This showed that the number of visits abroad by UK residents had grown by 3 per cent in the 12 months prior to February 2014, with expenditure increasing by 5 per cent over the same period. It seems that while UK residents’ interest in foreign travel is growing evermore, the inclination of the British public to learn a new language to a substantial level is clearly moving in the opposite direction.
The broader question of why British teenagers aren’t as compelled to learn MFLs as they once were is too complex to answer here – although the cessation of languages being compulsory subjects at GCSE level is clearly a major factor.
Learning French or Spanish may not be overly appealing to the average 15 year old when they could instead be doing PE or Art and Design, but the benefits of being bi- or multi-lingual do become more apparent as we get older.
Being able to speak more than one language can seriously enhance your future career prospects and, as shown in our literacy and numeracy 2014 survey, one of the main reasons that people decide to take part in further academic study is that they want to. Although the majority of jobs won’t ask for graduate-level knowledge of an MFL, being able to speak another language to A-level standard can really boost your employability.
In addition, to be eligible for most MFL degrees you are required to have an A-level in the same subject. Oxford Open Learning provide distance learning courses in French and Spanish at both GCSE and A-level, giving you the opportunity to both further your own career and buck the current trend of British apathy towards language learning.