Monolingual Brits miss out on European study

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The widespread British inability to speak any language other than English means few students study in other European countries for part of their degrees, research published yesterday found.

The widespread British inability to speak any language other than English means few students study in other European countries for part of their degrees, research published yesterday found.

While many students wanted to study abroad, they said lack of cash and the need to work in part-time jobs to make ends meet prevented them from so doing, researchers from Sussex and Dundee universities found.

Those who found the funds most often opted to go to universities in the US, Australia and New Zealand, the government-commissioned report said. Those going abroad were most likely to be white, female and middle class.

The report said that, among academics, "the general feeling was one of exasperation, but also resignation, about the foreign languages scenario in the UK".

The Westminster decision to make languages optional at GCSE level would make things worse, it said, although its writers welcomed the decision to introduce them in primary schools in England. "The problem of UK students' generally poor and declining knowledge of foreign languages came up again and again," the report said. Falling GCSE and A-Level entries plus the "downgrading of languages in the secondary school curriculum" formed the backdrop, it said.

"Ideally, a major re-positioning of languages within the school curriculum is necessary. More emphasis could be placed on school exchanges with overseas countries."

One head of a university department said: "There has been a wind-down of languages ... and those having the linguistic skills to be able to go abroad." Only Spanish among the European languages bucked the trend, because students saw it as "sexy - flamenco dancing, tapas bars etc ... also many go on holiday there", the head added.

Former polytechnics with large numbers of ethnic minority students had different problems. Asian students often had protective parents and did not want to study abroad. Or there were no exchange programmes in countries speaking their languages. African-Caribbean students were keener on studying abroad, particularly in America.

Comments