Generation Global

This toolkit is designed to give young people, parents and carers information, ideas and advice about learning languages; why it is important and how to go about it.

Making your future brighter with languages

EU logo 

When nothing stays still, what skills will we need to thrive?

'For economic safety for the future, you must have multiple skills and languages.' (Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur)

'The [UK] language deficit, if not tackled, is a threat to our competitiveness, influence and standing in the world, as well as to our citizens’ ability to play a meaningful role in the global economy and an increasingly networked and interconnected world.' (British Council, Languages for the Future)

'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.' (Nelson Mandela)

Useful links

For learners

  • Why Languages? This page give lots of advice and information, including job profiles, some of the wider benefits of language learning, and course opportunities. 
  • It doesn’t have to be a degree! Any language learning that you do is valuable. The Language Learning Opportunities page gives a list of universities and colleges across Scotland and beyond along with details of the courses that they have on offer, at all levels. You could continue a language that you already know, or start a new one from scratch! 
  • Not sure yet what you want to do after school? Have a look at our Job Profiles, videos and career packs giving advice from people using languages in lots of different career areas. 

For parents/carers

  • Languages in a Nutshell is a guide to learning languages, produced by SCILT in partnership with The National Parent Forum of Scotland. Aimed at parents, this leaflet explains how the 1+2 approach will be put into practice and why learning other languages is so important. It also suggests ways parents can support their child’s language learning. 
  • Why Study Languages is a great website made by university students with loads of information about why and how to study languages. It has lots of good advice, exam tips and interesting facts aimed at different age groups. There are even sections for teachers, parents and careers advisers too – something for everyone! 
  • Are you thinking about taking languages at school or university but unsure about exactly what you will gain from it? Watch the Why Study Languages videos of young people sharing their experiences, and read the helpful information on this site too. 
  • Education First has a great blog on 20 ways that learning languages changes the world (and transforms your life)! 
  • And another blog on the many benefits of learning a language at any level. 
  • Open Learn, from the Open University has a really interesting video on how languages can further your career. There are also links further down the page to loads of free online languages courses that you can sign up for with them. Fancied learning some Italian, Chinese or Welsh and didn’t know where to start? Here is your chance! 
  • Great advice from Young Scot on eight ways that languages can benefit your career. 
  • My World of Work is a resource that you will probably already be familiar with. Here is their list of jobs which use languages – some may surprise you! 
  • If you want to see an even wider range of jobs that are currently being advertised and where languages are required, check out these searches from recruitment sites Reed and Total.
  • Indeed has a really useful guide here to how languages skills generally are valued in the workplace. 
  • There is lots of inspiration, information and advice to help you on your languages journey on Blue Stamp Resources’ downloadable posters
  • In case you still need some more ideas of jobs that use languages, Success At School is here to help! 
  • The Student has some helpful tips and advice if you’re thinking of studying languages after school. 
  • For information on what you can do with all the skills that you gain from learning languages, look at the Total Jobs site
  • Top Universities has both a general advice page and a blog of where a languages degree can lead – not translation, as the blog specifically says!
  • The Bright Network says on their site that ‘Among Brits, knowing a second language is rare – about three quarters of us can’t hold a conversation in anything but English – and it makes you stand out to employers. Some roles you’re suited to use your language skills directly. Others benefit from the soft skills you’ve developed – flexibility, communication, cultural awareness, and many more.’ Have a look at their site for some of the career paths that you could take. 
  • One final one! The Guardian has some very honest and helpful accounts from young people of their experience of learning languages and of where they are in their lives now as a result. 

Top tips

  • Switch your phone language to a different one each week or month. Pick one that you’re studying or one that you’d like to learn.
  • Watch films and programmes in different languages; Netflix has a great selection.
  • Use websites like News in Slow French and News in Slow Spanish to practise your listening and find out about what’s going on in the world. Also available as apps.
  • Listen to music in different languages! Have a look at Lyrics Training for great songs from around the world and some fun activities based on them. Available as an app and online.
  • Research jobs that you are interested in and see how they use languages.
  • Speak to people doing the job you’re interested in and ask how languages can be useful in it; watch the SCILT job profile videos for more ideas.
  • Use learning apps like Duolingo to keep up your progress in a language that you’re studying or to start a totally new one. There are loads to choose from! Little and often is a great approach to learning languages.
  • Speaking of apps, look in your app store for free word games in different languages. They are a great way to practise, and fun too!
  • Speaking of speaking, try to talk in the languages you’re learning as much as you can – to classmates, family, even to yourself! It’s a great way to build confidence and fluency. Don’t be shy!
  • Maybe you don’t always find languages easy. Don’t worry; you are not alone! Lots of people find it tricky at first. It’s worth persevering tough – it will get easier! Have a look at Just Learn’s blog for reassurance and advice.

Key reading

Success stories

These young people all use languages regularly as part of their careers. Some of the careers may surprise you – none of them are teachers or translators! Have a look - are any of them working in areas that you are interested in?

Famous people

Now for some fun! Public figures such as actors, musicians, politicians and sportspeople, often speak a number of different languages due to their family heritage or to the requirements of their work. Have a look at some of them in action!

Famous people who speak other languages

Survey findings

In 2015, in the most recent Scottish Social Attitudes Survey carried out by the Scottish Government, additional questions were added for the first time about people’s attitudes towards language learning in schools. The results were published in 2016 and you can read them through the link below.

Visit Website

This year, as part of the Generation Global Erasmus+ project, SCILT undertook a small-scale national survey of learners, parents, carers and languages teachers looking at attitudes towards languages.

Many interesting messages came through from this, demonstrating a wide range of views and attitudes towards language learning. The key points are summarised as follows:

Learners

  • The majority of learners who responded said that they enjoy learning languages.
  • All of the learners who took part (even those who said they did not enjoy languages!) thought that young people should learn a language at school.
  • The young people who did not enjoy languages wanted them to feel more relevant and to learn more about the culture of other countries.
  • Many of the young people said that curricular constraints (ie. the limited number of subjects they could take) were a major factor on whether they or their friends opted to study a language once they had the choice, together with the perception that it was difficult.
  • All of the learners thought that languages would be important to them personally in the future.

“I think that having another language really helps in getting a job as well even in a sector which isn’t directly linked to languages as it is a very important and useful skill to have.”

“Learning languages can help with lots of other subjects. Knowing another language is a useful skill in any job.”

Parents/Carers

  • The majority of parents/carers who responded (94%) thought that it was important for young people to learn languages at school.
  • However, fewer than half of the parents/carers who took part had the impression that their children enjoyed learning languages. They felt that they did not always see the relevance of it for themselves and/or found it difficult.
  • Many parents/carers suggested that showing young people examples of a range of careers which use languages would help to engage them.
  • Curricular constraints were highlighted by a considerable number of parents/carers as a reason why their children did not opt to continue with learning languages once they had the choice.
  • Of the parents/carers who responded, around 80% had some knowledge, even at a basic level, of another language. Some are still continuing to develop their own language skills and to learn new languages.

“Languages in a practical sense make it easier to succeed in future employment but also introduce them to different cultures, broaden horizons and break down barriers.”

“Children learning an additional language are more creative, better at solving complex problems and usually score higher on other tests. Once children know a second language, it is easier for them to understand further languages structures, which is why experts say that every new language learnt is easier than the one before.”

Languages Teachers

  • The majority of teachers who responded (75%) saw uptake in languages in the Senior Phase as a current concern for them.
  • Again, curricular constraints were highlighted as a significant factor in the number of learners who continue with languages post-BGE.
  • Some teachers also picked up on learner and parental perception that languages are difficult.
  • Teachers note that having a range of languages and curricular pathways on offer is motivating and engaging for learners.
  • Most teachers who took part identified the need to use real-life contexts and examples from the world of work in languages classes.

“Languages, like no other subject, develop literacy and communication skills. They give pupils confidence.”

“We should always 'make space' for languages on the curriculum.”

Find out more about our three-year Erasmus+ project

Generation Global
University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages