Languages need to be continued by all

Languages can not only help your career but can change the way you think for the better

The inevitable hordes of students celebrating up and down the country this summer after surviving their GCSEs and A Levels. Many of them felt relief at having completed their last ever French lesson, free to throw their Tricolore textbooks away and settle down to work they find more interesting, never again to wonder about how the Smith family would cope when ordering food on holiday in Provence.

But before Francophiles everywhere throw their arms up in protest at the news that yet more Brits have given up the quest to massacre their beloved language, the same fate is also true for German, Spanish and Italian.

While our European counterparts are renowned for their linguistic prowess, Blighty’s residents are mocked for our reticence to persist with anything more taxing beyond “Parlez-vous English?” Although military-style grammar drills and toe-curlingly awkward conversations may dominate our memories of childhood language lessons, venturing beyond phrase-book vocabulary arms us with a wealth of practical skills that range from effective communication skills to approaching French and German literary output with confidence.

Even if the worst-case scenario happens, there’s nothing like an energetic mime to get rid of any remaining vestiges of British awkwardness in a vain attempt to summon up the Italian translation for “contact lens solution” or “mosquito repellent”.

Rochelle MacKenzie-McQueen, an English and French Law student at Sheffield Hallam University, is critical of our lax attitude towards languages, insisting they are “important not only for our personal growth and understanding, but also for our nation's growth.

“Learning languages enables us to develop skills and gain a deeper understanding of foreign cultures. For me, languages are enjoyable. I can easily see my progression and love it when I can go abroad and speak the native tongue.” She says.

Ultimately, as Rochelle explains, mastering a foreign language “helps to break down social barriers [to form] a more tolerant, understanding society.”

The idea learning languages promotes a more tolerant society is also supported by Michael Moriarty, Head of the French Department at the University of Cambridge and the Drapers Professor of French at Peterhouse, one of the university’s colleges.

Professor Moriarty believes that foreign languages are of paramount importance because “without a knowledge of foreign cultures we remain, as a society, locked in our own inherited habits of thought. We take it for granted that only what has been done before is possible. We ignore intellectual and cultural developments in other countries, because we are ignorant of them. To understand our own society, we need a profound understanding of other ones. Language and literature, in the broad sense, are avenues to that understanding.”

Despite our best efforts to catch up with our multilingual European neighbours, it will take time to change our well-known aversion British aversion to languages for the better.

As Professor Moriarty points out, this reputation can sometimes seem more “smug” and “complacent” than funny, if our intensive pre-holiday vocabulary cramming deserts us mid-tricky situation and we resort to simply adding “o” on the end of every second word to make it seem more “Spanish”.

Thankfully, this negative reputation has not always preceded us, as “for hundreds of years, English aristocrats and scholars spoke good French, merchants knew the languages of the Mediterranean and at the time few foreigners troubled to learn English.”

Surely this provides enough encouragement to continue that (long-overdue) New Year’s resolution to persevere with French, Greek or even Swedish, if only for the intense self-satisfaction to be gained at the surprise of your European hosts when you wax lyrical (and in fluent French, of course) about the rich symbolism in Racine’s works or the pleasure of strolling to your nearest boulangerie every morning.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant - IT Channel - Graduate

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a Value-Added I...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Guru Careers: Junior Web Developer

£18 - 22k (DOE) + Benefits & Stock Options: Guru Careers: A Junior Developer /...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor