Do young people in the UK care about learning languages? Fewer students than ever are choosing to study a language degree at university, and since 2004, taking a language at GCSE* has not been compulsory, so the simple answer would seem to be no. This is disconcerting news for a country which is not exactly famous for its multilingualism.
However, research conducted by the organisation ICM paints a far more complex picture of youth attitudes in the UK. Those choosing to study languages may have dropped, but of the 1001 young people between the ages of 14-24 interviewed in the survey, almost 20% already speak another language at home with their family, and 70% would be interested in learning another language in the future.
When asked to pick the three main benefits of learning a language, students said that job prospects at home and abroad were both key incentives. Learning about another culture and the experience of communicating also scored highly in this section. So if languages offer you the ability to make new friends and work abroad, why are young people put off? Asked to pick the three main downsides of learning a language, the difficulty of the learning process was an important reason but the idea that they were less interesting than other subjects came top for our young interviewees. Interestingly, low confidence levels in speaking another language also played a role in this decision.
Asking interviewees to comment on their ability in the language they had studied at school provided perhaps the most revealing piece of data from the survey. For most of the languages, students don’t perceive themselves to be progressing past basic language levels. The survey suggested that the opportunity to use a language outside the classroom and communicate with native speakers would make language learning more attractive. As for teaching inside the classroom, young people want more interaction, and more technology.
November 2014, The Guardian (Adapted).
- *GCSE – General Certificate of Secondary Education (in the UK)
Question 1: [2 POINTS] Indicate whether the following statements are true or false and write down which part of the text justifies your answer.
a) More students are choosing to study a language degree at university than before.
b) One fifth of students in the study are bi-lingual.
c) Better work opportunities are seen as an advantage to learning languages.
d) Students are completely happy with how languages are taught at schools.
- FALSE. “As for teaching inside the classroom, young people want more interaction, and more technology.”
Question 2: [2 POINTS] Answer the following questions in your own words according to the text.
a) What positive aspects to language learning are given in the text?
- • Better job prospects at home and abroad.
- • Learning about another cultura.
- • The experience of communicating.
- • Making new friends.
b) Why do the students questioned find language learning so difficult?
- • Difficut to learn.
- • Less interesteing than other subjects.
- • Low confidence levels.
- • Students don’t feel like they’re progressing.
Question 3: [1,5 POINTS] Find words or phrases in the text that correspond to the words and definitions given.
- 1. Obligatory (paragraph 1) compulsory
- 2. Points of view (paragraph 2) attitudes
- 3. Disadvantages (paragraph 3) downsides
- 4. See (paragraph 4) perceive
- 5. Chance (paragraph 4) opportunity
Question 4: [1,5 POINTS] Complete the following sentences without changing the meaning.
a) They stopped going to the matches because the football club put the prices up.
- If the football club … had not put the prices up, they would not have stopped going to the matches.
b) A good coach can teach normal players to improve a lot.
- Normal players … can be taught to improve a lot by a good coach.
c) “I really enjoyed the concert and the time we spent together,” Michael told me.
- Michael told me ... he had really enjoyed the concert and the time we (had) spent together.
Question 5: [3 POINTS] Write a short essay (about 120-150 words) on the following topic:
In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having to learn foreign languages?