Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.


Just what languages are spoken in the UK? (It's more than English)

8 May 2022 (The Travel)

If one goes to the United Kingdom - what language can one expect people to speak? The easy answer is of course English - and naturally, everyone speaks English there. But there are actually many languages in the British Isles. For the purposes of this article, we will include the British Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands - even though technically they are not part of the UK.


An Exploration of how Children’s Language Learning can be Transformed when Teachers Place Creativity and Stories at the Centre of the Curriculum and Experiment with Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

7 March 2022 (Modern Languages Open)

This article examines how the teaching of languages can be transformed across the whole-school primary curriculum when teachers and researchers collaborate to make space for creativity and stories. The research presented here looks carefully at this process of transformation and how primary school teachers can become motivated to teach languages in more open-ended and creative ways. The researchers situate the debate within the fractured emergence of Primary Modern Foreign Languages as a subject in England and relate this to the lack of teachers’ proficiency in languages beyond English. In many primary school contexts the teaching of languages is repetitive and highly formulaic, so the researchers wanted to find novel ways to motivate teachers and children to learn languages. This collaborative work on the curriculum by researchers and teachers became part of the Critical Connections Multilingual Digital Storytelling Project (2012–ongoing) where stories and digital technology are used to (re-)engage language learners. The children (7–8 year olds) in this case study created a digital story – Wir gehen auf Drachenjagd (We’re Going on a Dragon Hunt) – for an international digital storytelling festival (June 2019). The research findings demonstrate how the power of stories combined with the digital dimension enabled children to use a new language productively and creatively.


Covid: Learning abroad in pandemic invaluable, say students

2 February 2022 (BBC)

For Elin Griffiths, 22, studying in France and Spain during the pandemic under the EU's Erasmus programme was "challenging" but invaluable.

The UK left that scheme following Brexit.

A £65m Welsh government education exchange programme called Taith is launching on Wednesday, which aims to provide similar opportunities.

Elin, a Cardiff University modern languages student, moved to Paris in October 2020 to work in a school. That was a week before a second national lockdown was announced in France.

Those restrictions stayed in place for six months, which meant bars and restaurants were closed.

She said: "It was challenging to move abroad in a pandemic, but I had so many opportunities that maybe I wouldn't have had if life was normal."

In her second placement, in Spain, she worked for Sevilla Football Club for three months.

The student, from Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey, said there were a number of benefits to working abroad.

She said: "It's inevitable if you're immersed in a different society your language skills are going to improve, your academic skills are going to improve.

"But at the same time there are so many personal advantages as well."


Language GCSEs: Under 100 'to take French, German in Wales by 2030'

9 December 2021 (BBC)

Schools in Wales could have fewer than 100 French and German GCSE entries by 2030, a report has found.

The Language Trends Wales report, which reviews foreign language teaching, called for a national strategy on languages amid a drop in GCSE entries.

The report found GCSE entries for French and German had almost halved between 2015 and 2021.

The Welsh government said the new curriculum would help expand international language teaching.

Entries for GCSE French and German declined by 11% and 12% in the past year alone, and while GCSE Spanish saw a noticeable increase over the period, numbers have "see-sawed" recently, the report said.


Welsh language centre partners with Duolingo in million speaker goal

24 January 2021 (The Guardian)

An online language course created five years ago following a letter published in the Guardian is to be used to help reach a government target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Duolingo launched its Welsh language course in January 2016 and so far more than 1.5 million people around the world have been taught through it.

Now Duolingo and the National Centre for Learning Welsh have announced they will work together to help the Welsh government reach its 1 million target.

The Welsh government minister Eluned Morgan, whose portfolio includes the Welsh language, welcomed the partnership, saying: “We’ve set a goal of a million Welsh speakers by 2050, around a third of Wales’ current population, and in recent years we’ve seen a surge in demand for Welsh in early years and school-age learning.”


Inside the MFL Student Mentoring Project

20 November 2020 (British Council)

The MFL Student Mentoring Project was designed as a response to the ongoing decline in the number of learners choosing to study a (modern foreign) language past the compulsory stage of KS3 in Wales. 

The project focuses on changing attitudes and perceptions of languages by training undergraduate students in four Welsh universities ( Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea) to mentor Year 8 and 9 learners (12-14 years old) in Welsh secondary schools to appreciate the value and benefits of language learning. The scheme has inspired the development of comparable projects in the UK.

Find out more on the British Council Wales website.


Fall in Welsh-capable teachers risks missing language target, report warns

6 August 2020 (The Guardian)

A “striking” decline in the number of newly qualified teachers able to teach in Welsh could undermine the country’s ambition to have a million speakers of the language in 30 years’ time, a report warns.

The Welsh language commissioner, Aled Roberts, expressed concern about the trend and called for the devolved government to take urgent action to reverse the fall.

Three years ago ministers in Wales launched a plan to almost double the number of Welsh speakers by 2050, with a key plank of the strategy being a steady increase the number of professionals teaching through the language.


Tackling the languages ‘crisis’: Supporting multilingualism in the new curriculum for Wales

13 May 2020 (BERA)

A commitment to languages is front and centre of the Welsh government’s education policies. This is evident in the pledge to achieve 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050 (Welsh Government, 2017) and the Global Futures strategy and plan (Welsh Government, 2016) to build a ‘bilingual plus one nation’. Nonetheless, there remains an alarming decline of uptake of GCSE modern foreign languages (MFL).

What can be done to inspire an uplift for modern foreign languages across Wales in the future?

As a non-compulsory subject beyond KS3, the landscape for language learning in Wales (beyond English and Welsh) has been challenging for the last two decades, with entries for GCSEs in MFL falling by 60 per cent between 2002–2019 (Tinsley, 2019). However, in our article, ‘Multilingual perspectives: Preparing for language learning in the new curriculum for Wales’ (part of a new special issue of the Curriculum Journal), we discuss how the New Curriculum for Wales 2022 could offer hope for arresting and reversing the decline (Gorrara, Jenkins, Jepson, & Machin, 2020).

It focusses on the value of promoting a younger learner’s experience of all languages: Welsh, English and what are now termed ‘international languages’ (encompassing all non-indigenous languages in Wales). In this context, languages are positioned as ‘key to understanding the world around us’ (Welsh Government, 2020).

This commitment to the social and cultural benefits of multiple language learning creates opportunities for schools to diverge from a traditional emphasis on transactional language learning towards a multilingual approach. In our article, we argue that such multilingual practices and methodologies can reinvigorate a younger learner’s connection to languages by making them more dynamic and relevant to our globalised and connected world.


Coronavirus: Homeschooling in a language you don't speak

18 April 2020 (BBC)

Until a few weeks ago, non-Welsh speaking parents who had chosen Welsh-medium education assumed their children would spend about 30 hours a week immersed in the language - at school. Now attempting to "home school" in a language they don't speak, they face an extra layer of challenge.

In Cardiff, for example, about 63% of pupils in Welsh-medium schools come from homes where no Welsh is spoken. On top of anxiety about coronavirus and general concern about education, some parents are worried their children's Welsh language skills will suffer.


'I was lucky': the asylum seeker campaigning for others to learn Welsh

6 March 2020 (Guardian)

When Joseff Gnagbo arrived in Cardiff as an asylum seeker he did not realise Wales had a language of its own. “To be honest I didn’t know much about Wales at all,” he said. “I knew about the dragon flag but not a lot else. When I discovered Wales had a language I decided to learn it. If you live in a country, it’s normal to speak that country’s language.”

Gnagbo, who fled persecution in Ivory Coast, worked hard and is now a fluent speaker, playing a lead role in a new campaign to help ensure other asylum seekers and refugees get the chance to learn Welsh.


Welsh language education scheme rolls out across Wales

17 February 2020 (BBC)

A scheme to help preschool children learn Welsh more quickly is being rolled out across the country.

Croesi'r Bont, or Crossing the Bridge, has been developed by Mudiad Meithrin, which runs most Welsh-medium early years provision.

The focus is on ensuring staff at playgroups and primary school teachers use the same language patterns.

The aim is to ease the transition into Welsh-medium education for children whose families do not speak Welsh.

Mudiad Meithrin is taking a key role in the Welsh Government's aim of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.


Everyone in Wales will be able to speak Welsh in 300 years - believe scientists

12 January 2020 (Wales Online)

Researchers say that the Welsh language will "thrive" and by 2300 two-thirds of the population could be Welsh speakers.

More than a third of the world's 7,000 languages are currently classified as endangered and more than half are expected to go extinct by 2100. There are a number of strategies in place in those countries to boost the language.

The researchers have developed a model which can predict changes in proficiency levels over time and, ultimately, whether a given endangered language is on a long-term trajectory towards extinction or recovery. The data, published by the Royal Society, compares Welsh and te reo Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand, as a case study. That shows that while Māori is on a pathway towards extinction, Welsh will "thrive in the long term".

The model is based on Welsh in Wales, where researchers say "significant development in bilingual and Welsh-medium education and the presence of the language throughout the public and private sectors have positively contributed to an increase in the number of Welsh speakers."


Learning foreign languages should be compulsory, says report

9 January 2020 (The Guardian)

Learning a new language should be compulsory for pupils up to the age of 16, according to a new report highlighting the UK’s recent abysmal record in encouraging young people to study languages other than English.

The report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) cites an EU-wide survey showing that just 32% of young people in the UK say they are able to read or write in more than one language, compared with 79% of their peers in France and more than 90% in Germany.

The report calls for the overturning of the government’s 2004 decision to drop compulsory study of languages at key stage four – when pupils take GCSE exams in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – which has led to a steep decline in the numbers in England going on to study languages at colleges and universities.

It also recommends that the government should start subsidising the teaching of languages at universities, “in light of declining enrolments and growing vulnerability for lesser taught languages”, for strategic and cultural reasons.


Foreign languages ‘squeezed out‘ of schools in Wales

26 November 2019 (Stock Daily Dish)

Foreign languages are being squeezed out of school timetables by “core” subjects like the Welsh Baccalaureate, a survey suggests.

Schools and colleges were asked for reasons why there had been a major decline in pupils taking subjects such as French and German.

There has been a 29% fall in language GCSE entries in Wales in five years – a steeper fall than the rest of the UK.

The Welsh Government said its new curriculum would improve the situation.

More than half of all secondary schools and colleges in Wales responded to the survey about language teaching.

It found more than a third of schools had dropped one or more languages at GCSE in the last five years.

Teachers also said the perception modern languages were “too hard” was also having an effect on their uptake.


Developing multilingualism in primary schools in Wales: an impact study

30 September 2019 (British Council)

The British Council report sampled 10 primary schools across Wales, surveying both headteachers, staff and pupils, and interviewed stakeholders from the four regional consortia. By surveying schools who had already used both traditional and innovative methods of including languages in the school’s curriculum the report looks ahead and is able to analyse the benefits of embedding international languages, discussing the differing approaches and make recommendations for other schools based on best practice.

The report outlines some of the innovative methods teachers are using to integrate international languages into the classroom. 

The headteachers surveyed in the report saw international languages provision as representing the international ethos and aspirations of their school and supporting children to become ‘global citizens’.

Pupils themselves recognised this; “We like languages because you can go to other countries and meet people, travel the world, do good jobs”.  


How studying languages got Callum a job at Cardiff City

10 October 2018 (BBC)

There has been a further drop in the number of students from Wales taking language courses at university, according to admissions service Ucas.

The numbers starting foreign language courses was down by a third on the same time last year, in latest figures.

Cardiff University has been working with schools to encourage more pupils to take up subjects such as French.

Helping them is former student Callum Davies, now a player liaison officer at Cardiff City FC. He learnt modern foreign languages at school and spent a year in the south of France as part of the Erasmus programme while doing his degree course at Cardiff University.

He works helping French-speaking players and their families settle in the city.


Related Links

French and German language students from Wales fall again (BBC, 10 October 2018)

Petition to make BSL first language for deaf children in Wales

5 October 2018 (BBC)

A petition for British Sign Language (BSL) to be recognised as the first language of many deaf children in Wales has been submitted.

Deffo! Cymru, a forum for young deaf people in Wales, wants the Welsh Government to widen access to education and services in BSL.

The petition gathered 1,162 signatures and the National Assembly's petitions committee has recommended changes.

The committee's report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

One of the report's recommendations is the development of a national charter for the delivery of services, including education, to deaf children, young people and their families.


New report calls on Wales to sell its language and culture to the world

26 April 2018 (Nation Cymru)

Wales should do much more to raise awareness of the Welsh language and its own culture in order to differentiate the country from the rest of the UK.

That is one of the recommendations of a new report from British Council Wales published today.

The report says Wales should better use the appeal of its ‘soft power’, its culture, education and sport sectors, to gain more recognition and influence on the world stage.

“We feel there is much that could be done with the language outside of Wales, effectively using it as a way to both raise interest in Wales and differentiate it from the rest of the UK,” the report says.

“As such, we recommend Wales make greater efforts to share the language with international audiences, incorporating it in tourism promotion campaigns.”


Children to learn sign language through Welsh

31 January 2018 (BBC)

Applies to Wales

A new project has been launched which aims to teach sign language to young children through the medium of Welsh. 

The scheme, run by Mudiad Meithrin and funded by Bangor University, is the first to teach British Sign Language (BSL) through Welsh rather than English.

It will introduce one word per week in Welsh and BSL which will be shown to as many as 12,500 children under four.


National award for modern language GCSE scheme

8 November 2017 (BBC)

A mentoring project which has doubled the uptake of modern languages at GCSE in some areas has won a UK-wide award.

The modern foreign language (MFL) scheme trains students from Welsh universities to talk to pupils about the benefits of studying languages.

Cardiff University, which led the work, was awarded the Threlford Cup by the Chartered Institute of Linguists.


GCSE modern languages scheme 'doubles uptake' in some areas

7 October 2017 (BBC)

A scheme to encourage more pupils in Wales to take modern languages at GCSE has reported "significant" success.

More than a third of Welsh schools now have less than 10% of Year 10 pupils studying a foreign language.

But the Welsh Government-funded modern foreign languages (MFL) mentoring project said it had seen uptake double in some schools.

The scheme trains students from Welsh universities to talk to pupils about the benefits of studying languages.


Teachers in Wales 'worried' about future of foreign languages

2 July 2017 (BBC)

Teachers in Wales are "extremely worried" about the future of foreign languages in the country, according to a British Council survey.

It found more than a third of Welsh schools now have less than 10% of Year 10 pupils studying a modern foreign language.

British Council Wales said prospects remained "extremely challenging".

The Welsh Government said its action plan to improve take-up of languages was already under way.

Other findings of the survey included:
  • 44% of schools have fewer than five pupils studying a foreign language at AS level
  • 61% of schools have fewer than five foreign language pupils at A-level
  • 64% of modern foreign language departments have just one or two full-time teachers, with one third depend on non-British EU nationals for their staff
Between 2002 and 2016, the number of pupils studying a foreign language to GCSE level has fallen by 48% to 6,891 pupils last year.

At A-level, numbers have fallen by 44% since 2001.

The report said the outlook for foreign languages looked "even more fragile in the context of financial pressures on schools and the potential impact of leaving the European Union".


More school pupils to benefit from Bangor University language mentors

13 June 2017 (Daily Post)

More school students across North Wales will be able to take part in a successful Modern Languages Mentoring programme thanks to a further Welsh Government investment of £140,000 for the third year of the project.

Launched in 2015, the Modern Foreign Languages Student Mentoring project places undergraduates from Bangor, Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea universities into local schools to mentor pupils and encourage them to consider modern foreign languages when choosing their GCSE options.

The mentoring project is part of the Welsh Government’s Global Futures plan, which aims to improve and promote the take-up of modern foreign languages in schools in Wales.

Over the last two years the mentoring scheme has had a significant impact on partner schools, who have reported an increase in pupils choosing languages at GCSE as well as improved motivation to continue learning languages and to consider university.

The Welsh Government is now extending the project to include a new digital platform to increase its reach to schools and pupils who have not been able to engage with the project due to geographical location.


Trilingual music project hits the right notes in schools

15 March 2017 (British Council)

A pilot project called Listening to Language/ Cerdd Iaith, which aims to encourage language learning using music as a resource, is being delivered in ten primary schools across South West Wales. The trilingual music project addresses the decline of language learning in Wales.

Led by BBC National Orchestra of Wales, British Council Wales, ERW (Education through Regional Working) and University of Wales Trinity Saint David, musicians from the orchestra alongside language specialists have been working with teachers in schools across Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion to develop creative approaches to learning Welsh, Spanish and English.

The project, which is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, looks at how musical elements of language such as rhythm, repetition and rhyme can aid learning. The workshops are encouraging pupils to listen to the sounds of languages, to enhance the process of developing and understanding new vocabulary.


Report shows progress in promoting modern foreign languages in Welsh schools

14 December 2016 (Welsh Government)

The number of pupils learning Mandarin has more than doubled according to a new report on a drive to increase the use of modern foreign languages in Welsh schools (Weds 14th Dec).

In October 2015 the Welsh Government published Global Futures, a plan to improve and promote modern foreign languages in Wales and today a new report on the progress made has been published.

It comes as the Education Secretary will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Spanish Government to improve and promote the teaching and learning of the Spanish language in Wales.

The MOU builds on a range of activity being carried out in Wales by the Spanish Embassy Education Office.


Arabic? Polish? Dutch? Your views on the languages schools should teach

1 December 2016 (The Guardian)

What languages should we teach children in schools, and why? The question came to the fore on Monday after the Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, called on Theresa May to introduce Polish classes in British schools.

With 831,000 Poles living in Britain – they make up the largest immigrant group in the UK – introducing the language certainly could help communities feel more integrated.

Traditionally in secondary schools in the UK, the most widely taught languages have been French, Spanish and German, according to data from the British Council in collected from 2013 to 2014. In 2010 the government also decided to train 1,000 Mandarin teachers to work in secondary schools in England thanks to China’s increasing influence on the global economy.

How should we select languages for the curriculum? Should we choose those that are spoken the most in Britain? What languages have been most helpful to you? We asked our readers these questions and this is what they said.


Students are going into schools in Wales to address the alarming drop in people learning languages

12 October 2016 (Wales Online)

Learning a modern foreign language helps you make friends and get jobs, teenagers in Welsh secondary schools are being told by students.

Undergraduates are being brought in to tackle a huge drop in numbers learning languages like French, German and Spanish.

Between 2002 and 2015 numbers of pupils taking at least one modern foreign language at GCSE fell by 44%.

Entries for French are now less than half (47%) of what they were in 2002 and German entries are only about a third (36%) of those recorded in 2002.

Now a student mentoring scheme, funded by the Welsh Government to stem the fall, has increased the schools it works in from 28 to 44 in its second year.


Brexit: Scheme extended to encourage foreign language take up

8 October 2016 (BBC News)

Addressing a serious decline in the number of Welsh pupils learning foreign languages is "urgent" following the Brexit vote, an academic has warned.

There were 700 A-level language entries in 2015 compared with 1,152 in 2009.

A scheme, which sees university students mentoring secondary school pupils, is being extended after making a "clear impact" on class numbers.

Professor Claire Gorrara said the scheme was more important than ever after the Brexit vote.

The Cardiff University professor, who leads the project, said it had led to improvements to the 28 schools involved in the pilot across Wales.


How mentoring can improve modern languages uptake in schools

6 October 2016 (The Conversation)

For some time, there have been many stories told of the “crisis” in modern languages in secondary schools and universities. There is hard evidence to support this. Even though there have been upsurges in modern languages provision – following the introduction of the English Baccalaureate for example – pupil numbers continue to fall.

In Wales, where modern languages are still an optional choice at GCSE, research shows that the number of pupils studying a foreign language declined by 44% between 2002 and 2015. The number of pupils taking French in 2015 was less than half those who took it in 2002.

But why are pupils put off taking a language at GCSE level, and how can we improve attitudes to the subjects? As a bilingual country, it seems counter-intuitive that Welsh pupils cannot see the benefits of studying languages. However, research from an engagement project we have recently been running suggests a range of things are influencing pupils’ decisions not to study a language.

The mentoring project saw undergraduate modern language students from four Welsh universities trained to work with year eight and nine pupils (aged 13 and 14) in 28 schools. The students helped the pupils to practice their language, build confidence and knowledge, and teach them how modern languages can aid personal and professional development.

Our work was part of a push by the Welsh government, to arrest and reverse the decline in modern languages study by 2020.


Welsh language target of one million speakers by 2050

1 August 2016 (BBC Wales)

A drive to almost double the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050 has been unveiled by the first minister at the National Eisteddfod.

Carwyn Jones stressed the workplace, family, schools and the planning process as the key areas for action.

Alun Davies, minister for the Welsh language, admitted it was a "deliberately ambitious" target.

But Plaid Cymru's Sian Gwenllian called the announcement "another superficial stunt".

The 2011 census reported a drop in the number of Welsh speakers from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000, about one in five of the population.

Traditional Welsh-speaking communities have been said to be under threat from young people moving away to find work and new housing developments attracting incomers who do not speak the language.

Ministers who launched the consultation at the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, on Monday cited a growing demand for Welsh-medium education as a reason to be positive.


School language learning decline tackled by universities

3 December 2015 (BBC News)

A new scheme to help reverse a sharp decline in foreign language learning in schools in Wales has been announced by four universities.

In June, a report found the number of children studying a language at GCSE fell by a third between 2005 and 2014.

Under the pilot project, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea undergraduates will be trained to coach school pupils on their language skills.

The scheme is funded by Welsh ministers' Global futures programme.

Prof Claire Gorrara from Cardiff University, the academic leading the project, said there was increasing evidence the drop in foreign language learning was limiting young people's educational, training and career opportunities.


New school hub to drive modern foreign languages in South Wales

5 October 2015 (Wales Online)

Language teachers at a South Wales girls’ school have been asked to pass on their hints and tips as part of a new drive to raise take-up in French, German and Spanish.

Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, has been named “centre of excellence for modern foreign languages (MFL)” in the Central South Wales region.

It will see Bryn Hafren hosting teachers from schools in Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Vale – with an aim to raise standards and interest in subjects which have struggled to attract pupils in recent years.


GCSE results: figures show slump in foreign languages and rise in computing

20 August 2015 (The Guardian)

Fewer entries for GCSE French, German and Spanish, though grades for languages have improved.


Related Links

Drop in take-up of foreign languages prompts concerns of UK's ability to trade globally (The Independent, 20 August 2015)

GCSE results: fall in numbers taking foreign languages 'a cause for concern' (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)

Why has there been a drop in students taking language GCSEs? Teachers' views (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)

GCSE results: Language entries drop for second year running (TES, 20 August 2015)

GCSE exam results: The top 10 best performing GCSEs of 2015 (The Independent, 20 August 2015) 'Other Modern Languages' in second place.

GCSE Results Day 2015 live: top grades drop for fourth year in a row following efforts to fight grade inflation (The Telegraph live blog, 20 August 2015) [..] 10.20 Figures from today reveal an overall drop in the number of entries to modern foreign language exams. 

GCSE results 2015: pass rate rises but A* grades dip (The Guardian, 20 August 2015)
[..]Modern languages French, Spanish and German all saw falling entries, with the numbers taking German this year dropping by nearly 10%. 
GCSE results remain stable but major concerns emerge over top grades in maths (TES, 20 August 2015) [..] The number of students taking language GCSEs fell for a -second consecutive year, despite the subjects being included in the government’s English Baccalaureate (Ebac) performance measure.

CBI responds to 2015 GCSE results (CBI, 20 August 2015) On languages, Ms. Hall said...

British Council comments on GCSE languages 2015 (British Council, 20 August 2015)

EBacc effect wearing off on GCSE languages (Alcantara Communications, 20 August 2015)

GCSE exam results for languages (UCML, 20 August 2015)

Speak to the Future calls for Head Teachers to implement the EBacc and support an outward-facing Britain with an outward-facing curriculum, which includes languages (Speak to the Future, 20 August 2015)

Language Trends Wales 2015

2 June 2015 (CfBT)

The latest research into foreign language learning in Welsh schools by CfBT and the British Council shows a significant decline.

Report's main findings:

  • Modern foreign languages are becoming increasingly marginalised within the Welsh curriculum 
  • Many pupils are receiving only a minimal or fragmented experience of language learning 
  • The potential benefits of bilingualism in Wales are not being realised when it comes to learning a modern foreign language 
  • In the ten-year period from 2005-2014 A-level entries for French, German and Spanish halved 
  • Only 22% of Welsh pupils take a GCSE in a language other than Welsh or English

The first national survey of modern foreign language (MFL) teaching in Welsh secondary schools has found that foreign language learning is becoming increasingly marginalised within the Welsh curriculum, with the number of pupils choosing to study foreign languages in decline.

The Language trends Wales report, commissioned by CfBT Education Trust and the British Council, highlights the decline of modern foreign language learning in Welsh schools. This is despite the advantage bilingual Wales should have in learning other languages, with experts agreeing that already having two languages makes learning a third easier.

Language trends Wales states that in today's globalised world only 22% of Welsh pupils take a GCSE in a language other than English or Welsh.


Related Links

Language Trends Wales (British Council, 2 June 2015) - article includes link to download the Language Trends Wales 2015 report.

Wales: bilingualism untapped in further language-learning (British Council Voices, 2 June 2015)

Foreign language learning 'declining rapidly' in Wales (BBC News, 2 June 2015)

Morning Call (Radio Wales, 2 June 2015) - topic introduction: listen from 01:10 and main feature from 07:15 (available on iPlayer until 1 July 2015)

Foreign languages becoming 'increasingly marginalised' and 'financially unviable' in Welsh schools, report warns (Wales Online, 2 June 2015)

‘Significant’ decline in foreign language learning in Wales (The Financial, 3 June 2015)

Global Futures – a plan to improve and promote MFL in Wales

1 June 2015 (Welsh Government)

I [Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills] wanted to take this opportunity to update members of the Assembly on the work we have been doing over recent months to begin to re-model our approach to Modern Foreign Language (MFL) learning and delivery in our schools. The new global economy holds out many exciting opportunities for Wales and the work we are doing to raise standards in our schools, colleges and universities is designed firmly with those opportunities in mind. We want Wales, its economy and its labour force to have the skills and competences to thrive in the 21st Century. This requires us to be bold and innovative in our approach and the recent Donaldson review highlights the scale of our ambition. The study of Modern Foreign Languages occupy an important place in education.


Tongue Tied

7 April 2015 (RT London)

Watch British Council's Vicky Gough and lead researcher Bernadette Holmes from Born Global in this RT news piece on native English speakers being the worst language learners in Europe.

More information about the Born Global project can be found on the British Academy website via the related link below.


Related Links

Born Global: Rethinking Language Policy for 21at Century Britain (British Academy, 2014) A new policy research project into the extent and nature of language needs in the labour market and the implications for language education from school to higher education.

Press Release – A Fresh Look at Languages

11 March 2015 (Routes into Languages Cymru)

Yesterday, Routes into Languages Cymru launched a new website at an exciting international event at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. The event was held by British Council Wales and was an opportunity for the British Council and their many partners to showcase their international work in Wales. The opening address was given by Huw Lewis AM, Minister for Education and Skills.

The new website, Routes into Languages Cymru, highlights the fantastic work that is done by Student Language Ambassadors, includes contributions from school pupils in the guest blog section and offers visitors the opportunty to take full advantage of the range of resources produced by Routes Cymru.


UCML Initiative: #languagepolicyUK

9 March 2015 (Women in German Studies)

The University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) has recently announced a new strategy to influence the debate surrounding modern languages, and to highlight the potential languages have to inform UK issues such as immigration, terrorism, and social cohesion in the run up to election day.

Using Twitter as the primary social media platform to encourage this debate, the UCML are calling on corresponding organisations – and individuals – to promote the importance of modern foreign languages, and to connect on the aforementioned issues using the hashtag:#languagepolicyUK.

Every fortnight there will also be a twitter ‘chat’ session that will last for one hour. The first of these #languagepolicyUK hours will take place on Saturday 21 March 10am and will be repeated on Sunday 22 March at 2pm for those who could not take part in the first hour. Both sessions will focus on the topic: ‘Connecting for Languages – Why?’.


Languages in Wales

19 November 2014 (The Wales Report)

Report on the state of languages in Wales. Watch from 20:50 minutes.


Majority want Welsh and English bilingual push in schools - poll

10 November 2014 (BBC News)

Most people in Wales would like to see school pupils taught to speak both Welsh and English, a survey claims.

A YouGov poll was commissioned by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society), who said the results were a "challenge" for the government.
It shows 56% of people agree that schools should aim to ensure pupils can communicate effectively in both languages.


A-level results: pass rate ‘declines for first time in 32 years’

14 August 2014 (The Telegraph)

A-level results published by exam boards show the number of A to E grades awarded to students has declined this year, although elite A* grades are up.

[..] Students continued to desert foreign languages following Labour's decision in 2004 to make them option at GCSE, with French, German and Spanish entries all down.


BLOG: BBC Wales weather presenter Behnaz Akhgar on learning Welsh with S4C's Cariad@Iaith: Love4Language

16 June 2014 (South Wales Evening Post)

BBC Wales weather presenter Behnaz Akhgar is spending a week at Nant Gwrtheyrn language centre learning Welsh for S4C's series Cariad@Iaith:Love4Language.
She’s blogging about her experiences throughout.

Here are her first two blogs.


Call for more language learning in primary schools

9 April 2014 (BBC News)

Primary schoolchildren in Wales should be taught in three languages, according to Plaid Cymru.
The party has launched a paper examining a European model where learning multiple languages from an early age is normal. The paper also looks at ways to improve the teaching of the Welsh language.

Plaid education spokesperson Simon Thomas said employers have highlighted modern foreign languages as a skills gap.


French Government slams Wales over cuts to language body

3 April 2014 (Wales Online)

The French government has condemned cuts approved by Welsh ministers to the body that promotes learning foreign languages.

Welsh business leaders have also condemned ministers, stressing the importance of speaking languages abroad.


Welsh pupils disadvantaged by lack of foreign language options

15 March 2014 (Guardian)

Decision to scrap languages from Welsh Baccalaureate will disadvantage Welsh economy and culture, ministers told.


Languages reading list: Coke ad fury, coding in Kentucky and the polyglot kid

7 February 2014 (Guardian - The case for languages learning series)

In languages news this week, strong reactions to the Super Bowl advert, coding might be re-classified as a language and a London sixth former is named Europe's best young translator.


Language learning cash to be cut by two thirds

4 February 2014 (BBC News)

The National Centre for Languages (CILT Cymru) - which encourages children to learn foreign languages - is having its funding slashed by two thirds. BBC Wales understands that Cardiff-based Cilt Cymru will have its government funding reduced from around £600,000 to around £200,000 in the financial year starting in April. The Conservatives have attacked the Welsh government's decision. But ministers say in a time of austerity they have to prioritise.


Primary schools in Wales 'should teach foreign languages'

23 January 2014 (BBC News)

Primary school children in Wales should be taught foreign languages to boost the number studying them later, the National Centre for Languages has said.

Welsh government figures show a drop in pupils choosing a language at GCSE and A-level.
In 2005, 12,826 children studied a language at GCSE, but in 2014 it has fallen by a third to 8,601.

A government spokesperson said primary schools are encouraged to teach languages.

The number of teenagers studying a language at A-level has more than halved to 668 from 1,467.
A government spokesperson said they were looking at ways to improve secondary school take up.

The Welsh Conservatives said the figures were disappointing because the economy is so dependent on international links.

The National Centre for Languages (CILT Cymru) said primary school children in England and Scotland do learn a language.


Related Links

Schools science project aims to boost foreign language take-up (BBC News, 21 December 2013)

Foreign language study falls by half in Wales over seven years

23 December 2013 (Wales Online)

Foreign language study has halved in the past seven years across Wales' schools and colleges as growing numbers turn away from learning European languages, alarming figures have shown.


Proposals to remove languages from the Welsh Baccalaureate

4 December 2013 (Speak to the Future)

Just at a time when employers are calling more strongly than ever before for better language skills, and hard on the heels of the British Council’s recent report on Languages for the Future and the British Academy’s Lost for Words research on the need for languages in UK diplomacy and security, the Welsh Assembly Government is putting forward proposals which remove the compulsory languages element from the Welsh Baccalaureate.

Unlike the English Baccalaureate, the Welsh Baccalaureate is an actual qualification for 14-19 year olds which may be taken at 3 levels. A 20 hour language module is currently compulsory for all students within the ‘Wales, Europe and the World’ strand. Speak to the Future deplores this development, which sends the wrong message to young people in Wales about the importance of language and intercultural skills in today’s world. It is a message which will work against efforts to persuade more young people to take a language to GCSE and will have the effect of dumbing down the qualification rather than making it more rigorous and more relevant. We call on everyone who supports our campaign to respond to the online survey the Welsh Government has launched with regards to its proposals, which closes on 20 December.


First step taken for brand new Menter Iaith Bangor language initiative

30 September 2013 (Plaid Cymru)

Over 60 people took the first step in establishing a brand new Menter Iaith Bangor language at a recent event at Bangor Football ground. There was huge support from those present to establishing a language initiative for the city of Bangor to promote and increase awareness and the use of the Welsh language at a community level.


2013 A level results - languages data

15 August 2013 (UCML)

The A level results came out today (15 August 2013). What's been the impact on languages?


Drop in number of A-level students studying foreign languages

15 August 2013 (The Guardian)

A major inquiry is under way after the number of teenagers taking traditional modern foreign languages at A-level fell to its lowest level for more than a decade.


Related Links

A-level results show rise in science entries (The Guardian, 15 August 2013) Economics, further mathematics and Spanish also rise while PE, German and drama fall.

A-level results: live (The Guardian, 15 August 2013) (Relates to England) Trend information shows that application rates to traditional language subjects continued to suffer, with German and French application rates dipping 14.53% and 9.9%. But more students opted to study Spanish (+4.08%).

Full results breakdown can be found on the Guardian Education webpage.

Grade inflation is over: Top A-level grades down for second year running (TES, 14 August 2013) ….But the overall decline in the popularity of modern foreign languages at A level continued. French, German and Spanish have seen a collective 17.8 per cent fall in entries since 2008.

Gap widens between A-level students in Wales and England (Wales Online, 15 August 2013) ...Interest in foreign languages dropped again, with 139 fewer French entries this year than in 2012.

33,000 Northern Ireland students get A-level results (BBC News, 15 August 2013)  The results show that Northern Ireland students have performed particularly well in subjects such as mathematics, chemistry and modern languages.

Minority languages report top grades (Irish Times, 14 August 2013) (Relates to Ireland) Russian is top for A grades, while science subjects perform poorly.

Ofqual to probe ‘inconsistency’ of top A-level grades (The Telegraph, 9 August 2013) [..] It raised particularly concerns over modern foreign languages such as French, German and Spanish, with warnings that examiners award “relatively few” elite A*s compared with other disciplines.

ASCL congratulates A level students for another year of excellent achievement (Association for School and College Leaders, 15 August 2013) ASCL congratulates this year’s A level students and teachers for another set of excellent results. However the overall decline in the number of modern language entries is a concern and ASCL is calling on Ofqual to address the grading issue urgently.

Languages in UK schools: where we are vs where we need to be

13 May 2013 (Guardian)

What more could and should we be doing with languages in schools? Louise Tickle takes a look at the language learning landscape in the UK.


Welsh language spending study considered by ministers

9 May 2013 (BBC News)

The Welsh government is considering how to measure the impact its spending decisions have on the Welsh language. The Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg) says it follows its meeting with the minister responsible for the language, Leighton Andrews. The Welsh government already holds an annual assessment of the effect of its spending in the field of equality. Ministers confirmed that they are now considering doing the same for the Welsh language for their next budget.


Fall in foreign language GCSEs prompts fears for Wales' future prospects

2 April 2013 (Wales Online)

(Applies to Wales) The number of pupils taking foreign language GCSEs has fallen drastically, prompting fears the lack of language skills could damage Wales’ economic prospects. The number of entries has fallen from 10,706 in 2009 to 7,872 in 2012, a drop of more than a quarter.


Teachers tongue-tied over Welsh language

18 January 2013 (TES)

Since devolution in 1999, the Welsh language has topped the political agenda as ministers seek to create a truly bilingual nation. The government has invested millions of pounds and drafted numerous initiatives and strategies, with much of the focus on the education system.


New Welsh language standards for public bodies revealed

28 November 2012 (Wales Online)

Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws has published a set of proposed new standards that will force public bodies to increase significantly their commitment to providing services in Welsh.


Welsh parents speak out over bilingual 'enforcement'

23 November 2012 (TES)

Welsh-language primary and secondary schools must immerse pupils in the language and limit the amount of English they are allowed to speak if Wales is to become a bilingual nation, according to campaigners.


Foreign Languages took pride of place at the Institute of Welsh Affairs / Western Mail Business Awards

16 November 2012 (CILT Cymru)

On Friday the 9th of November, the profile of Modern Foreign Languages was raised at the Institute of Welsh Affairs / Western Mail Business Awards.

The newly created Award, The Best Use of Foreign Languages in Business Award recognised those Welsh companies who actively use foreign languages to develop strong markets abroad.


Regional and Minority Languages: An inevitable decline?

13 November 2012 (Language Rich Europe blog)

Martin Dowle, Director British Council Ukraine, presented the language situation in Wales at last week's Language Rich Europe launch in Kyiv. In this blog post, he summarises the approaches Wales is taking in order to promote Welsh and prevent its decline.
Is it inevitable that minority languages will always suffer decline? The case of Welsh shows this does not need to be the case. Since its low point in 1991, when just 18% of the Welsh population spoke Welsh, it has started to make a modest recovery. Today, 37% of 3 to 14 year-olds are able to speak Welsh, compared to just 15% in 1971, fuelling recovery from the cradle upwards.


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