Celebrating languages

I am sure you have all highlighted in your diaries that it is European Day of Languages on 26th September. The European Year of Languages 2001 was jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union, and was so successful that the Council of Europe declared a European Day of Languages to be celebrated on 26th September each year. The objectives of the European Day of Languages are to:

  • Highlight the importance of language learning
  • Promote the cultural diversity of Europe
  • Encourage lifelong language learning in and out of school.

European Day of Languages is a great opportunity to inspire people and get them excited about learning languages. Indeed, the Guardian reports that 81% of adults regret not having learnt another language.

Council of Europe logo for European Day of LanguagesWhilst there is much to celebrate, languages still have a long way to go in this country. It is ironic that the European Day of Languages is happening at a time when several language qualifications are facing the axe under plans drawn up by one of the major exam boards. The ASSET Language courses will be scaled back to just French, German, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin, according to OCR, with courses in community languages scrapped. The exam board said the decision was taken because low pupil take up meant that they were no longer financially viable.

In addition, the numbers of British teenagers learning European languages fell again in this year and A Level examiners have even spoken of a crisis in these subjects. Entries in French declined to about 12,500 this year and the number of candidates taking German dropped to below 5,000.   A glimmer of hope on the horizon is offered through primary school developments. Languages are now a requirement in Primary schools from aged 7 and are part of a new Primary national curriculum taking effect in 2014. I have to admit that I remain cautiously optimistic as my 8 year old daughter is currently time tabled for a mere 30 minutes of French each week.

Whatever the state of language learning in this country, we should be celebrating European Day of Languages and encouraging learners (old and young) to give languages a try.

Did you know?

  • There are between six and seven thousand languages in the world.
  • These languages are spoken by six billion people divided into one hundred and eighty nine independent states.
  • Most of the world’s languages are spoken in Asia and Africa.
  • Over three hundred languages are spoken in London.