A recent article written by the Guardian newspaper states that over a third of UK universities have stopped offering specialist European language courses, demonstrating a shocking lack of interest in studying a foreign tongue.
Some argue it is a lack of funding into linguistics courses that has led to this immense drop in participation whilst others debate whether it is the harsh grading at A-level that has turned students off the idea of taking a higher learning language course. We look at some potential reasons language learning may be decreasing in popularity, and discuss why why we believe there should be a resurgence in students wanting to learn one!
There may other influences responsible for the drop in applications to study languages but modern technology offering computer-aided translating services at your fingertips is certainly one. It may seem as though communication with people all over the world has become a limitless possibility, and indeed these services have helped, but it has been argued before that online translation programs are not as reliable as everyone believes. The idea of communication is one not just supported by the words themselves, but the intention with which they are spoken and often learning a language from scratch is a much easier way of understanding not just how to speak it, but how to understand the culture from which the language originates.
Decreasing Popularity and Investment
European languages are becoming known as ‘elite subjects’, i.e., a subject being offered by very few universities and therefore only studied by a small demographic of students who have decided it will be beneficial in a particular job role. It seems as though, because the demand for these courses has dwindled and as such the number of universities offering these courses has also lowered, there seems to be no way of changing this trend. There must be many valid reasons as to why students do not feel like taking up university courses in languages such as German, Spanish and Italian but perhaps there should be more of an effort made by educational services to demonstrate the benefits of taking up a new language at degree level.
Language Benefits Business
Perhaps prospective university students these days are turning away from learning languages simply because they do not see it as a necessary string to their bow. However, with the rise of global communication comes a huge rise in global commerce. Businesses are trading internationally now more than ever so being multi-lingual is a massive plus if you are thinking of working abroad. It is not just future employment prospects that improve from learning a new language, the opportunities for personal growth are significant too. If you have the desire to travel the globe during your gap year, then surely knowing some of the local tongues will help you immerse yourself in the destinations you have chosen to travel.
Learning a language helps to understand other people and cultures and can help breed a deeper understanding of the world you live in. Being able to translate the odd sentence with Google Translate when you need to is a helpful tool but being able to speak in depth to someone in their own language is a skill we believe to be far more meaningful.