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
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
News
politics
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Leeds November start...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

EBD Teacher - Food Technology Specialist

£100 - £181 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobTo plan and deliver all ...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker