Key arguments for decision makers

The resources below summarise the key statistics and provide information on learner entitlement, providing a context for language learning in your school. These resources underline the case for languages.

Education and skills survey 2014: Gateway to growth

CBI, CBI (July 2014)

Key messages on language skills:

  • Only around one third of businesses have no need at all for foreign language skills in their employees – and this is likely to decrease as we shift towards a more export-led economy.
  • The vast majority of businesses do not require a high level of foreign language fluency as an essential core competence of their operations. But conversational fluency in another language helps in the conduct of business and can assist staff in their careers.
  • Over two in five employers see foreign language ability as beneficial to the business although not a recruitment requirement, while more than one in four finds it helpful in building relations with overseas suppliers, customers and other contacts. 
  • Around one in six UK employers says language skills assist staff mobility within the organisation, facilitating international working. 
  • Language skills are more highly valued in those sectors leading the rebalancing towards a more export-oriented economy. 
  • Almost two thirds of UK employers are not satisfied with school/college leavers’ foreign language employability skills and a similar number perceive shortfalls in international cultural awareness among school and college leavers. 
  • French and German are the leading languages in demand by firms, but those geared to business in China and the Spanish speaking world are increasingly seen as useful.

Read more...

Languages: The State of the Nation

Teresa Tinsley, British Academy (2013)

Key messages:

The British Academy commissioned a review of empirical data from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales seeking baseline data on the current demand and supply of language skills in the UK. Key findings from the report include: 

  • There is strong evidence that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when globally, the demand for language skills is expanding
  • The range and nature of languages being taught is insufficient to meet current and future demand 
  • Language skills are needed at all levels in the workforce, and not simply by an internationally-mobile elite 
  • A weak supply of language skills is pushing down demand and creating a vicious circle of monolingualism 
  • Languages spoken by British school children, in addition to English, represent a valuable future source of supply – if these skills can be developed appropriately.

Read more...

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey: Attitudes towards language learning in schools in Scotland

Scottish Government, Scottish Government (February 2016)

Key messages:

  • Most people in Scotland (89%) think that learning a language other than English in school from the age of five is important. This was regardless of people’s age, educational qualifications, or socio-economic status.
  • The most common languages that people in Scotland think are appropriate for children in their area to learn are Western European languages.

Related Links

Language learning in Scotland: a 1+2 approach

Scottish Government, Scottish Government (May 2012)

Key messages on languages

The Scottish Government’s policy, Language learning in Scotland: a 1+2 approach (Scottish Government, May 2012), is aimed at ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn a modern language from P1 onwards. Additionally, each child should have the right to learn a second modern language from P5 onwards. The policy should be fully implemented across the country by 2020.

Read more...

Statement by Minister for Skills and Learning

SCILT National Conference, (2011)

Speech for Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning and Skills, SCILT National Conference Wednesday 8th June 2011.

Key messages on languages:

Manifesto commitment to introduce a new norm for language learning in Scotland based on the
European 1 + 2 model – that is, to create the conditions in which every child will learn two languages in addition to their own mother tongue.

Modern Languages Excellence Report

Scottish Government, Scottish Government (2011)

Excellence Groups were established to consider what makes for excellence in subjects, and in skills development, across learning. The Groups met a number of times in autumn 2010. This is the final report from the Modern Languages Excellence Group.

Key messages on languages:

  • Senior Management in Local Authorities and schools need to be made aware of the benefits and the myths of language learning so that they can create the right kind of ethos and structures.
  • Decision–makers in Local Authorities and in schools have a responsibility to ensure that MLPS is given the secure place it deserves in the primary school.
  • Schools have to ensure that Modern Languages remain part of the broad general education. Most learners will need a solid base and appropriate gradient of progression from P6 (at the latest) to the end of S3. 
  • Modern Languages lend themselves naturally to cross-curricular activities and have a unique contribution to make to both International Education and to Literacy.
  • External Partnerships both at home and abroad greatly enhance the relevance and enjoyment of Modern Languages.
  • The target languages should be used in lessons and throughout the school as much as possible.
  • Teachers should take an eclectic approach to methodology, vary classroom activities and teaching materials, and use ICT in a meaningful way.

Read more...

Building the curriculum 3: A framework for learning and teaching

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (2010)

Key messages on languages:

Every child and young person is entitled to expect their education to provide them with a broad general education, including well planned experiences and outcomes across all the curriculum areas from early years through to S3 (page 4). This includes a language (page 5).

Read more...

Modern Languages Principles and Practice

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (2009)

Key message on entitlement

There are no specific input requirements in terms of time allocations. The emphasis in modern languages is on ensuring that each learner achieves an acceptable level of proficiency in the language. This level of proficiency is linked to Basic User Level of the CEFR. The national expectation is that almost all young people study modern languages to the third level as part of their general education for our young people. This may be achieved in different ways. (page 5)

Read more...

Languages and Employability

Luísa Araujo et al, European Commission (2015)

To understand the relationship between language knowledge and employment status, data from the Adult Education Survey 2011 for 24 European Member States was used to examine whether skills in foreign languages increase the employment rates of 25-64 year-old adults:

  • In 17 Member States knowing one foreign language, two or more and/or being proficient in the best known languages is positively related with employment chances.
  • Adults who know one or more foreign languages are more likely to be employed than those who do not know any foreign language. This relationship holds true even for basic competences.
  • Being proficient in at least one of the two best known foreign languages is positively associated with employment chances in 6 Member States.

Read more...

Focus on foreign languages (Analytical highlight)

European Commission, European Commission (2014)

Key messages:

  • Globalisation is likely to increase the demand for foreign language skills in European labour markets in the short- to medium-term.
  • English is regarded as an important basic skill demanded by recruiters throughout Europe, but additional languages increasingly make the difference to business.
  • Only 42% of teenage pupils are competent in their first foreign language and just 20% in their second foreign language.

Related Files

Europeans and their languages

European Commission, European Commission (2012)

Key messages:

  • In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each).
  • Just over half of Europeans (54%) are able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language, a quarter (25%) are able to speak at least two additional languages and one in ten (10%) are conversant in at least three.
  • Countries where respondents are least likely to be able to speak any foreign language are Hungary (65%), Italy (62%), the UK and Portugal (61% in each), and Ireland (60%). 
  • The five most widely spoken foreign languages remain English (38%), French (12%), German (11%), Spanish (7%) and Russian (5%).
  • 88% of Europeans think that knowing languages other than their mother tongue is very useful. 
  • Two thirds of Europeans (67%) consider English as one of the two most useful languages for themselves followed by German (17%), French (16%), Spanish (14%) and Chinese (6%).
  • 98% of Europeans consider mastering other foreign languages as useful for the future of their children.
  • More than seven in ten (72%) Europeans agree that people in the EU should be able to speak more than one language in addition to their mother tongue.

Read more...

First European survey on language competences

European Commission, European Commission (2012)

Key messages:

  • Almost nine out of ten EU citizens believe that the ability to speak foreign languages is very useful and 98% say that mastering languages will be good for the future of their children.
  • However, tests carried out among teenage pupils in 14 European countries show that only 42% are competent in their first foreign language and just 25% in their second. A significant number, 14% in the case of the first foreign language and 20% in the second, do not achieve even the level of 'basic user'.
  • More than half of Europeans (53%) use languages at work and 45% think they got a better job in their own country thanks to their foreign language skills.
  • Almost three quarters (72%) agree that at least two foreign languages should be taught from a very early age and 77% believe it should be a political priority.
  • The number of Europeans who say they can communicate in a foreign language has fallen slightly, from 56% to 54%. 
  • The number of Europeans who regularly use foreign languages on the internet, through social media for example, has increased by 10 percentage points, from 26% to 36%.

Key data on teaching languages at school in Europe

European Commission, European Commission (September 2012)

Key messages:
  • Children are starting to learn foreign languages at an increasingly early age in Europe, with most pupils beginning when they are 6-9 years old.
  • The amount of teaching time students receive has not significantly increased. Indeed, teaching time dedicated to foreign languages is rather low compared to other subjects.
  • An increasing number of pupils now learn two languages for at least one year during compulsory education. 
  • English is by far the most taught foreign language in nearly all European countries, with French, Spanish, German and Russian following far behind.

Conclusions of the European Council Meeting, Barcelona

European Council, European Council (2002)

In what became known as the 'Barcelona agreement' the Council called for further action' to improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age' and ‘establishment of a linguistic competence indicator in 2003'. 

Skills Investment Plan for Scotland's Tourism Sector

Skills Development Scotland, (2016)

Key messages on language skills:

  • Industry consultations highlighted the requirement for further work in ensuring staff have the experience to deliver a high quality visitor experience, including a need to promote tourism as a career option to those studying languages.
  • Through increased internationalisation, Scotland will attract growing numbers of visitors from new or emerging markets. It is important that businesses and destinations understand and respond to their visitors’ customs and expectations, while also looking to enhance the foreign language skills of their workforce.

Read more...

Turbulent Times: Skills for a Global World

OCR and Think Global, (July 2016)

Key messages on language skills:

  • There is a substantial skills gap in relation to foreign language skills at a time when the UK Government is trying to build more effective relationships with rapidly-developing parts of the world.
  • Overall, 28% of employers are affected by employees’ lack of foreign language skills, with that number rising to 35% percent in large and service-based companies; and to over half of all employers in Scotland. If Britain is to maintain and build a meaningful position on the world stage, this finding should ring alarm bells.

    Read more...

    Education and skills survey 2015: Inspiring growth

    CBI, CBI (July 2015)

    Key messages on language skills:
    • The proportion of businesses saying they have a need for foreign language skills among their employees has risen sharply (to 77%). The ability to communicate with other people in their own language can play a valuable part in forming relationships, building mutual understanding and trust, and developing the networks on which business opportunities depend.
    • The vast majority of businesses do not require a high level of foreign language fluency as an essential core competence of their operations. However, conversational fluency in another language helps in the conduct of business and can assist staff in their careers.
    • Over two in five employers see foreign language ability as beneficial to the business although not a recruitment requirement, while more than one in three finds it helpful in building relations with overseas suppliers, customers and other contacts. 
    • Around one in four UK employers says language skills assist staff mobility within the organisation, facilitating international working. 
    • Almost two thirds of UK employers are not satisfied with school/college leavers’ foreign language employability skills and over half perceive shortfalls in international cultural awareness among school and college leavers. 
    • French and German are the leading languages in demand by firms, but those geared to business in China and the Spanish-speaking New World are increasingly seen as useful.

    Read more...

    Scotland's Future Workforce - “Keeping Pace in the Global Skills Race?”

    British Council / SCDI, (June 2014)

    Key messages on language skills:

    • Language skills were cited by young people as one of the top barriers to working and studying abroad.
    • 28% of employers agree or strongly agree that an ability to speak at least one other language is important to the employment opportunities of young people. 45% of young people share this view.
    • 80% of young people said they had learnt a language to a level where a simple conversation could be held.
    • While young people felt that they were given the opportunity to acquire some language skills at school, many believe that languages could be taught in different ways and that this would both improve standards and encourage more people to learn foreign languages.

    Quotes from business on language skills:

    • 'We need young people to understand a globalised marketplace and then develop the language skills because if they are interested and realise the inner value, this will drive them forward.' CEO, Oil and Gas Industry
    • 'Scottish businesses are not placing enough emphasis on the benefits of language skills in the workplace [...] As a manufacturer, we are competing with multi-lingual German and Italian engineers and until we, as a nation, are on an equal footing in regard to engineering and language skills, Scotland will rarely be first choice.' MD, Manufacturing Business

    Read more...

    The Costs to the UK of Language Deficiencies as a Barrier to UK Engagement in Exporting

    James Foreman-Peck, Cardiff Business School (May 2014)

    Key messages on language skills

    • Poor language skills in businesses are holding back the UK’s trade performance. Because of poor language skills, trade by UK companies in 2006 was lower than it might otherwise have been in Brazil, Russia, India, China as well as with France, Germany and Japan.
    • Language skills make firms more able to communicate in the same language as potential trade partners, which makes a firm more likely to be an exporter.
    • Language skills make firms more aware of the barriers created by cultural factors.
    • Language skill deficiencies and lack of awareness of the importance of these skills has a significant negative influence on export intensity. Firms with greater understanding of language and culture are better able to identify and exploit sales opportunities in that market and can achieve higher export sales.

    Read more...

    Prospering Wisely: How the humanities and social sciences enrich our lives

    British Academy, British Academy (February 2014)

    Prospering Wisely aims to kick-start a national conversation about the place of humanities and social science research in our society. It argues that we need to think about the nature of 'prosperity' in much broader terms than its usual purely financial definition.

    Key messages on language skills:

    • More than three-quarters of the UK economy is now in services, which flourish by employing people with knowledge and skills from the humanities and social sciences, including speaking other languages.
    • Foreign language skills play a crucial role in opening up many overseas markets.
    • Foreign language skills open up cross-national and cross-cultural discourse, including diplomacy and international security.
    • As research itself becomes an ever more international enterprise, the importance of language skills is increasingly evident.
    • We need more people who can supplement their specialist knowledge in a particular professional, scientific or other disciplinary area with an understanding of other languages.

    Read more...

    Employer Demand for Languages Graduates in Scotland: a Case Study in the Financial Services Sector

    Mary Fischer, (June 2013)

    In the context of recent surveys of business and employer attitudes to the economy’s need for language skills, this study aims to contribute to the debate by investigating the attitudes to foreign language skills in the Scottish Financial Sector. Interviews were conducted with representatives of recruitment agencies and with four managers in investment management companies headquartered in Scotland. The results show, paradoxically, that although language skills are considered essential in this sector, companies tend not to acknowledge this explicitly and do not recruit on this basis. The latent need for skilled linguists is largely met by recruiting foreign nationals who offer both language skills and a global mind-set. It is suggested that these practices will have longer term consequences for the competitiveness of British graduates in the global economy.

    Keywords: language skills, financial sector, year abroad, language policies

    Culture at work: the value of intercultural skills in the workplace

    British Council, British Council (2013)

    Key messages on language skills:

    The research shows that there is real business value in employing staff who have the ability to work effectively with individuals and organisations from cultural backgrounds different from their own. In particular, employers highlight the following as important intercultural skills:

    • the ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints
    • demonstrating respect for others
    • knowledge of a foreign language.

    Read more...

    Languages: The State of the Nation

    Teresa Tinsley, British Academy (2013)

    Key messages:

    The British Academy commissioned a review of empirical data from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales seeking baseline data on the current demand and supply of language skills in the UK. Key findings from the report include: 

    • There is strong evidence that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when globally, the demand for language skills is expanding
    • The range and nature of languages being taught is insufficient to meet current and future demand 
    • Language skills are needed at all levels in the workforce, and not simply by an internationally-mobile elite 
    • A weak supply of language skills is pushing down demand and creating a vicious circle of monolingualism 
    • Languages spoken by British school children, in addition to English, represent a valuable future source of supply – if these skills can be developed appropriately.

    Read more...

    Talking the talk, so that Scotland can walk the walk: A rapid review of the evidence of impact on Scottish business of a monolingual workforce

    Scottish Government, Scottish Government (2012)

    The purpose of this report was to report findings to the Languages Working Group of the cost to Scotland of a monolingual workforce in order to support the delivery of an action plan for the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning for the manifesto commitment ‘that all students develop 1+2 languages’.

    Conclusions:

    • 75% of the world population speaks no English and only 6% are fluent in English. If nothing else shakes our complacency that English is enough, those figures should. But add these to the clear demand from business, and the weight of evidence that improving language skills will enhance life chances for individuals. Enhancing language skills increases the trading capabilities of companies and organisations; and provides growth for the economy, as well as enhancing Scotland’s international cultural reputation. Then the problem shifts from why we should invest in language skills to how we can make it happen.
    • While there may be insufficient data from Scotland to provide a detailed economic impact analysis of the ‘tax on trade’ for Scotland, if we take the minimum suggested by the analysis for the UK of half a billion pounds it is a prize worth securing and a price worth investing in acquiring the skills. 
    • Working closely with business organisations will enable Scotland not only to gather specific empirical evidence, but it will also build stronger ties between commerce and education that will bring significant rewards for Scotland.

    Read more...

    SCILT have produced a selection of resources to reinforce to learners, parents, colleagues and senior management the benefits of learning a language, and enable schools to make the case for languages in their school and community. These resources include a leaflet providing information on the 1+2 approach to lanaguage learning, the entitlement to language learning for all learners and the impact of learning languages on literacy. 

    Our leaflets can be downloaded as PDF or ordered as hard copies to use at promotional events or parents' evenings. Visit SCILT's Parentzone for further ideas and support.

    • The case for languages
    • Scotland
    • UK
    • Europe
    • Business case
    • SCILT resources

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