Latest News

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


New drive to bring Arabic into Scottish schools

27 October 2020 (TES)

A new initiative aims to bring the teaching of Arabic into both primary and secondary schools in Scotland.

This week the Scottish primaries involved in a new programme offering an insight into Arabic language and culture will receive boxes of Arabic artefacts, such as books, scarves, musical instruments and tea sets.

Scottish schools are open but movement in and out of buildings remains restricted as a result of Covid-19. Scilt, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, has, however, found a way to bring the wider world to pupils at a time when their ability to travel is also much reduced.

The centre, based at the University of Strathclyde, is offering an insight into Arabic language and culture in 15 primary and secondary schools around Scotland. The courses include online lessons from native-speaking teachers of Arabic in the UK and link-ups with native Arabic speakers overseas.

The centre was keen to make the experience tangible, hence the delivery of the boxes.

Scilt director Fhiona Mackay says: “It’s really important that we encourage diversity in language learning. That’s what the 1+2 approach to language learning [in Scotland] should be all about – particularly language three should be an opportunity to explore languages that otherwise children would not be exposed to. It is absolutely right that they should have the chance to experience a language that does not have the same script or alphabet as Latin or Germanic-based languages.

“We also wanted to make sure that children were getting a view of the Arabic world that was not about war, terrorism or refugees. We wanted them to see there is something quite wonderful about this ancient civilisation and help them relate that back to their own experience in Scotland.”

The courses offer learners the chance to explore the secular culture of Arabic nations and to receive a grounding in the Arabic language, which is a first language in more than 20 countries and the fifth most widely spoken in the world.


International Education Week 2020

8 October 2020 (British Council)

To celebrate International Education Week 2020 (16-20 November), British Council is offering three opportunities for pupils and language teachers:

  1. 'Welcome to the Arab World' webinar - Friday 20 November from 13:30-14:30

In collaboration with the Qatar Foundation International’s (QFI) Arabic Language and Culture programme a second ‘Welcome to the Arab World’ webinar event for upper secondary pupils (Year 9 and above) from any school.

This event will include sessions ‘An Introduction to Arabic language and cultures’, a session with Zaina Erhaim, a Syrian journalist who was reporting on the Syrian war from within Syria. She is currently a refugee in the UK and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)'s Communications Manager. Zaina will speak about her life in Syria before and during the war and as a refugee and a live performance and conversation by Syrian American hip-hop artist Omar Offendum. Now living in Los Angeles, California, Omar is also a designer, poet and peace activist whose work blends Arabic and English words and rhythms.

This event will be a Teams Live broadcast to schools. There will be time for questions from pupils to all the speakers. NB this session is designed for those with no previous knowledge of Arabic

To attend this event, please register by completing our online form

  1. To celebrate International Education Week, British Council and Qatar Foundation International’s (QFI) Arabic Language and Culture programme is delighted to offer two opportunities for primary and lower secondary pupils;
  • An online, traditional, Arabic story-telling workshop for a maximum of 30 participants on Monday 16 November (three slots will be available at 9.00, 10.30 & 13.30).
  • An opportunity to connect your class with a native Arabic speaker through the NaTakallam project  on Tuesday 17 November at 11.00, Wednesday 18 November at 12.00 and Thursday 19 November at 13.00. The speaker will be able to discuss Arabic language and culture with your class, as well as share their own experiences as a refugee.

If you would like to express interest for either of these opportunities please contact  by Monday 19 October and include your school details. Successful applicants will be chosen at random. 

For more information on the Arabic Language and Culture programme at the British Council please visit our website  or email the team .

  1. Languages for all: how do we get there? A solutions-focussed look at practical steps schools can take to transform MFL uptake and success. 

The British Council and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages are proud to present this webinar hosted by the British Council on Monday 16 November 2020 from 16.30–17.30 GMT on Microsoft Teams.

This event will include the following presentations:

1.    Pedagogy in MFL at KS3 and KS4: ways forward for schools.
Presented by Ian Bauckham, CEO of the Tenax Schools Trust and Chair of the Teaching Schools Council’s Modern Foreign Languages Pedagogy Review.

2.    Successful primary-secondary transition: ways to give students the best possible start in Year 7.
Presented by Suzanne O'Farrell, MFL Consultant, ASCL.

3.    Fresh approaches to bringing languages alive through cultural knowledge and international connections.
Presented by Oliver Hopwood, Languages teacher.

Followed by Q&A and discussion.

Register for the webinar on the British Council website.

Watch the webinars from the Welcome to the Arab World event

22 September 2020 (British Council)

In June 2020 we held our Welcome to the Arab World event for pupils, and the recordings are now available.

There are four sessions each lasting approximately 20 minutes.

  1. An introduction to Arabic language and cultures by Tony Calderbank from the Qatar Foundation International (QFI).  
  2. A traditional Arab story told by Elias Mattar. 
  3. Stereotypes of the Arab world by Hana Mohamed who works for Caabu (The Council for Arab British Understanding). 
  4. A live performance and conversation from Syrian American hip-hop artist Omar Offendum.

Visit the website for more information and to view the webinar recordings.



8 September 2020 (British Council)

Story-a-thon is a platform for young authors to explore their creative writing skills. To celebrate International Literacy Day children aged 5-11 are being invited to submit a story of no more than 350 words on the subject 'How Will You Make the World A Better Place.'

Stories can be written in English, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese, or Arabic, whichever language they are comfortable with. 

Visit the Story-a-thon website for more information. Submission deadline: 30 September 2020.


‘I just need a connection’: the refugees teaching languages across borders

17 June 2020 (The Guardian)

A unique platform lets teachers from Venezuela to Syria to Burundi earn a living teaching their language online.

Louisa Waugh and Ghaith Alhallak have met for language lessons in seven countries. “We counted it up the other day,” says Waugh, recalling the list of places from which she has video-called Alhallak: Britain, Mali, Senegal and Greece. Alhallak has answered from Lebanon, France and Italy, where he is now studying for a master’s degree in political science at the University of Padua.

“You just need a connection,” he says.

The 770 students and 64 teachers at NaTakallam - “we speak” in Arabic – conduct their lessons entirely online, allowing refugees to speak to students who might not otherwise have contact with displaced people. The service also circumvents restrictions on work for refugees and asylum seekers in their new countries of residence, which means they can earn money.

“I really see it as solving two problems,” says one of NaTakallam’s founders, Aline Sara. “Refugees need access to an income, but with no work permit they’re often stuck in limbo. Yet they have innate talents within them in the form of their language, their story and culture, while so many people want flexible language practice,” she says. “There’s an idea that people always want to train and help refugees, but really they can help us.”


There is a monument in Georgia with instructions in 8 languages on how to re-build a post-apocalyptic society

3 June 2020 (Time Out)

Seems like the world might need this right now.

They're called the Georgia Guidestones and they actually look like the Ten Commandments. The five 16-feet-tall granite walls overlook a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia, supporting a 25,000-pound capstone. But what's even more astonishing than their massiveness (four of the five slabs weigh more than 20 tons each!) is what is inscribed on the rock: carved on the polished granite are directions in eight different languages instructing the survivors of a supposed apocalypse on how to properly rebuild society.


Around the World resources

8 April 2020 (British Council)

We all know the importance of keeping connected whilst distancing. That’s why we’ve curated a special collection of our favourite resources about life and culture in different countries around the world. Designed by specialists and tested by teachers, our resources are packed with ideas and projects to help you plan face to face or online classes and support parents with home-learning.

Why not plan a virtual trip around the world for your students and choose which countries you’d like to explore together? We’re always here to help you bring the world into your classroom, wherever your classroom is.


New job profile on SCILT's website

26 March 2020 (SCILT)

Our job profiles cover a wide range of careers where languages are being used. The latest addition to our collection comes from Ruaridh Campbell. A recent graduate in International Relations, Ruaridh believes his Arabic language skills will be a real asset in his quest to join the Royal Marines.

Teachers share his profile with your pupils to highlight the benefits of language learning for life and work.


The Great Languages Challenge

26 March 2020 (British Council)

The Great Languages Challenge can be completed during a planned lesson or also set as a language-themed homework task. We even have a blank version available that students can use to design their own challenges for their classmates or peers in their partner school overseas.


Wee Write 2020

14 February 2020 (Aye Write, Wee Write)

As part of Glasgow's wider Aye Write annual book festival, Wee Write is specifically aimed at children and young people.

Award winning authors, Wee Write favourites and brand new faces will bring books alive at The Mitchell Library and inspire a lifelong love of reading in children. All schools are able to book sessions at the event with Glasgow schools receiving a discounted admission. This year's Wee Write event for schools runs from 2 - 6 March, with a family day also being held on Saturday 7 March.

There are several Scots and Gaelic sessions to be enjoyed and schools can book story sessions at local libraries in a range of foreign languages.

Visit the Wee Write website for more information and booking details.


Multilingual Debate 2020

21 January 2020 (Heriot-Watt University)

Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event that showcases the interpreting skills of undergraduate and postgraduate students. The event takes the form of a formal debate with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. The teams deliver their views in their various native languages (French, German, Spanish, English, Arabic, Chinese, British Sign Language (BSL)).

The audience is mainly made up of pupils coming from Scottish and English secondary schools, along with university undergraduate students considering entering the interpreting profession, as well as government and local authority representatives, The audience participates by listening to the arguments, putting questions to the speakers in the languages represented and voting on the motion.

The Multilingual Debate 2020 will take place on Wednesday 25 March at Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh campus. Two sessions are available and bookings are now being taken. Schools can book up to 15 tickets free of charge.

Visit the website for more information.


Discover the Arabic world – A unique experience for Scotland’s schools

10 January 2020 (SCILT)

SCILT, in partnership with Qatar Foundation International and eSgóil is currently looking for ten state schools in Scotland who would be interested in opening the door to the Arab world with an innovative new pilot project. 

The collaboration will provide an opportunity for both primary and secondary schools to offer L3 learning experiences in Arabic language and culture.  Courses will be co-created by the SCILT team and a specially commissioned writing team of native speakers, with language lessons delivered online by a native speaker of Arabic via e-Sgoil. For learners in primary schools the course will be offered as a ten-week inter-disciplinary block of learning.  For secondary schools, the course will focus on developing employability skills and be aimed at S6 senior phase learners who are seeking to enhance their language learning experience and their CVs.  Participating schools will also receive the support of a fully-trained, native speaking, language assistant. The lessons will give learners the chance to explore aspects of Arabic culture as well as providing a solid linguistic foundation for learning the world’s fifth most spoken language.

In addition to teaching support and professional learning opportunities, schools participating in the pilot phase will also receive a grant of £2000.  This can provide schools with resources and experiences that enhance and support the language learning and promote a positive experience of Arabic culture.

If you would like your school to be considered to take part in the pilot, please note your interest at SCILT before close of business on Friday 31 January 2020.

The best languages to study for future job opportunities

6 November 2019 (The Telegraph)

Your Year 9 French teacher was right: learning a language can open a lot of doors. Not only will your fluency allow you to travel to distant corners of the globe, but having a degree in a language can make you highly employable.

Mastering a language has always been impressive to employers: it shows tenacity and commitment, but can also come in handy if they work with overseas clients. 

Now, language skills are more sought after than ever, given the potential impact of Brexit on British industry, according to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Report 2018. “The need for languages has been heightened by the UK’s departure from the European Union,” the report states.

The British Council has also stressed the need for young people to learn a foreign language in order for Britain to become a “truly global nation”. In their most recent Languages for the Future report in 2017, the British Council listed the following as the most important languages for the UK’s prosperity: Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian. 

Even though multilingualism is needed for the UK’s prosperity, just 1 in 3 Britons can hold a conversation in a foreign language, according to the report from the British Council. 

So, those who can speak another language are more needed than ever - as is clear from the 2018 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Report, which surveyed almost 500 British employers and calculated which languages are most desirable to them. The following are the results from that report and, thus, the best languages to study for graduate employment. 


Africa in Motion Film Festival 2019

25 October 2019 (African in Motion Film Festival)

The Africa in Motion Film Festival takes place from 25 October to 3 November. Screenings in Glasgow and Edinburgh include several foreign language films.

Visit the website for full details of this year's programme.


Speakers of Arabic - call for writers

24 October 2019 (SCILT)

SCILT is currently planning to develop materials to support the learning and teaching of Arabic as an L3 option for primary and secondary schools in Scotland. 
If you are a fluent speaker of Arabic, ideally with an understanding of Scottish education, and would like to contribute to the development of these materials by joining our working group, please note your interest by contacting SCILT by close of business on Monday 11 November 2019.

Full support will be given by the SCILT professional development officers on policy, the Scottish curriculum and appropriate methodology. Contributors will be paid as SCILT associates for their time and expertise.

The Ramshorn and Graveyard Digital Trail - now available!

23 October 2019 (SCILT)

If you find yourself in the Merchant City area of Glasgow why not complete our new 'The Ramshorn and Graveyard' digital trail? Pupils from Glasgow Gaelic School, Holyrood Secondary, Shawlands Academy and St Roch's Secondary worked with SCILT and Global Treasure Apps to create a multilingual trail around the new SCILT and CISS premises. The trail encourages visitors to learn about the history of the area by following clues set by the pupils, and gives people the chance to test their language skills.

The Ramshorn and Graveyard Digital Trail is available to download from Global Treasure Apps in Arabic, English, French, Gaelic, German, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Spanish and Urdu.

Find Global Treasure Apps on the App store or Google Play


Queen Elizabeth II Can Speak This Foreign Language After Learning It Privately

5 November 2018 (International Business Times)

Queen Elizabeth II can speak at least one foreign language fluently after getting a private education by governess Marion Crawford.

Harriet Mallinson, a journalist for Express, revealed that Her Majesty can speak French fluently. French is regarded as the official language in 29 countries. But the Queen has used her knowledge in the language during her visits to France and Canada.

In 2014, the Queen went to Paris for a state visit and met with former President Francois Hollande. The two discussed the weather in French. During her fifth French State Visit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, the monarch also gave an address in both English and French. A year later, the Queen spoke with a schoolgirl from Dagenham in French.

But Mallinson noted that the most impressive instance was when the Queen went to Quebec in Canada and gave a speech in French for a straight 10 minutes. French language expert Camille Chevalier-Karfis commented on the Queen’s French-speaking videos.

“Her reading skills were excellent – both pronunciation and rhythm were very good, but you could feel she was quite tense,” she said.

In related news, the Queen isn’t the only royal that can speak French fluently. Prince Charles and the Queen’s three other children can all speak the language.


Related Links

Prince Harry greets audience in 6 languages (CNN, 31 October 2018)

Africa in Motion Film Festival 2018

10 October 2018 (Africa in Motion Film Festival)

Africa in Motion is Scotland’s major annual celebration of African cinema, and is delighted to return for the 13th year to bring audiences in Edinburgh and Glasgow a wide variety of creative stories from across the African continent.

Screenings will take place from 26 October to 4 November. Several films in the programme will offer the opportunity to brush up your language skills in French, Arabic, Japanese and Swahili.

Find full programme details on the website.


Online Arabic from Palestine - course launch

2 October 2018 (University of Glasgow)

University of Glasgow, in partnership with Islamic University of Gaza, has launched an new course, 'Online Arabic from Palestine for beginners'. 

The course will be of interest to anyone wanting to learn, or promote the learning of, Modern Standard Arabic with a Palestinian ‘flavour’ for work, to communicate with Arabic speaking ‘new Scots’, for linguistic solidarity with the people of Palestine, or simply for the pleasure of learning such an important language.

The Online Arabic from Palestine course will be taught by trained and experienced teachers based at the Arabic Center (Islamic University of Gaza) and will make use of bespoke interactive materials created over the past year by an international team of language experts.  Please see the IUG Arabic Centre website for course details and registration.

The Online Arabic from Palestine course is the result of an international and multilingual project (OPAC) run over the past 12 months by a team based in the University of Glasgow School of Education (PI Dr Giovanna Fassetta) and the Gaza Strip (Palestine). The international team has worked in close collaboration to design and develop an online Arabic course for beginners, through the combined efforts of academics, teachers, administrators, IT experts, videographers and graphic designers.

Please note there is a cost to take part in this course. However, research outputs are freely available from University of Glasgow website.

For the past 10 years, the Gaza Strip has been under blockade. The blockade has resulted in very high unemployment, especially among young graduates, and in forced cultural and linguistic homogeneity. The aim behind the course was to create opportunities for multilingual, intercultural and professional collaboration between graduates of the Islamic University of Gaza and a team of foreign language teaching experts based at the University of Glasgow.


One Arabic-English translator shares his experience

13 September 2018 (British Council )

Tony Calderbank has been translating from Arabic to English since 1992. He shares some of the knowledge he has acquired along the way. 


New job profile on SCILT's website

4 May 2018 (SCILT)

For relevant, labour-market focused career advice on languages, direct from the workplace, read our latest Job Profile on Michael Dewar, whose love of languages has led to him working as a language tutor. Teachers, use this resource in your classroom to enhance learning about the world of work.


Arabic to be taught to Syrian refugee children in Scotland

28 April 2018 (The Scotsman)

E-Sgoil is now being expanded to teach a range of subjects to pupils all over Scotland after initially being created in response to teacher recruitment problems in the Western Isles. 

And Angus MacLennan, head teacher of e-Sgoil, said there were now plans to recruit a teacher to offer Arabic lessons. 

The move is in response to an anticipated demand from pupils.

[..] E-Sgoil is also hoping to recruit online tutors to teach Mandarin in response to a demand from pupils in the Western Isles. 


How Netflix’s increasing use of foreign language content is helping to fight xenophobia

14 April 2018 (The Independent)

Netflix’s increasing use of foreign languages is building a global community where English isn’t king.

And it’s about time, as we need every tool we have to fight rising xenophobia.

Narcos may have kicked off this trend, but it goes way beyond just reading the subtitles. An audience of 104 million Netflix subscribers are devouring content in Spanish, German and Arabic. 

Nielsen released viewer numbers on two original Netflix programmes that debuted the same week: the sci-fi movie Cloverfield Paradox drew in 5 million viewers in the first week, and Altered Carbon, a television series based on an English book, brought in 2.5 million viewers. In both instances, leads spoke a language other than English throughout its run time. Chinese actor Zhang Ziyi plays an engineer in Cloverfield, and all her lines are recited in Chinese. Mexican actor Martha Higareda’s dialogue in Altered Carbon is primarily English, delivered with a hint of accent. However, she frequently reverts to her native Spanish in the series, as do the actors who play her family members. Co-star Waleed Zuaiter, who plays her partner, also speaks Arabic in key scenes.

The streaming service is producing popular programming depicting foreign and first-generation English-speaking actors, each communicating in their native tongue. The English speakers simply respond without skipping a beat. The implication is that they understand one another and choose the language they’re most comfortable responding in.


Language resources from Schools Online

29 October 2017 (Schools Online)

Polish your Polish

Grow awareness and understanding of Polish language and culture with our newest resource pack. Activities include fun facts about Poland and learning about culture through illustrated maps. For example, did you know that scientist Marie Curie was born in Poland’s capital, Warsaw? Download now

Fascinated by Arabic language and culture?

Explore the richly diverse world of Arabic language and culture with our resource pack. Created as part of the Arabic Language and Culture Programme, the pack enables students to learn about prominent Arabic inventions and discoveries like the art of calligraphy, and its creative cousin – calligraffiti. Download the pack

Bilingual story book readings

1 September 2017 (The Language Hub)

The Language Hub in Glasgow provides regular bilingual story book sessions at Hillhead Library. The sessions are free to attend and, whilst aimed at pre-school children, everyone is welcome.

The next event takes place on 5 September with a Spanish/English reading of 'The Gruffalo'.

Further readings of different stories in a range of languages will take place during the Autumn. For details of all the available sessions from September to November visit the Language Hub's website.


Vocab Express League of Champions 2017

21 August 2017 (Vocab Express)

The next League of Champions competition from Vocab Express will be taking place from 28 September to 4 October 2017.

It's a fantastic way to engage students in vocabulary building by challenging them to compete against other schools across the UK and from around the world.

The challenge will feature French, Spanish, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Urdu, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin competitions.

The challenge is free to all schools subscribing to Vocab Express. In addition, there are 150 free school places available to non-subscribers, each for up to 150 students. Free spaces are still currently available!

Visit the website for more information and to register your school.

Teachers can also sign up for guest access to a free trial of the Vocab Express platform using their school or academic e-mail address.


Which language should we teach in school?

2 August 2017 (MEITS blog)

Increasing motivation for language learning in UK schools and encouraging children to maintain their languages study past the point at which they have the chance to stop is an ongoing challenge. One important question here is: to what extent are success and motivation linked to the particular language pupils study?

The myth of the monolingual Brit, who refuses to speak foreign languages, has been supplemented in recent years by the narrative that we are not only unwilling, but also unable to speak foreign languages. For example, the 2012 European Survey on Language Competences, which sought to provide comparable data on standards of achievement in 15-year old learners across 16 participating countries, showed pupils in England languishing at the bottom of the table, where the learning of the first foreign language (French) was concerned.

The figures, however, tell a slightly different story when we consider the learning of the second foreign language. For example, Sweden, which had topped the charts for English proficiency, languished at the bottom when it came to the learning of the second foreign language (Spanish); learners in English secondary schools who were studying German as a second language did better.

Leaving aside the difficulty of providing robust data from such surveys, this study provides support for the idea that the language learned really does matter. Motivation for English learning is so strong in most parts of the world that for many learners it is now a life skill as much as a foreign language. Motivation for studying the second and third foreign languages, however, can be as difficult to achieve in other parts of the world as it is for the first in our own setting.

In Europe and the rest of the world English’s position as the foreign language of choice remains unassailable. For example, the 2017 Eurodice Report, which provides key data on teaching languages at school in Europe, reports that in 2014 virtually all EU students (97.3 %) studied English during the entire period of lower secondary education. After that came French (33.7 %), German (23.1 %) and Spanish (19.1 %), with other languages rarely studied.

The question of which language should we teach our learners in England remains a source of debate.


Israeli woman invents new typeface combining Arabic and Hebrew to promote co-existence

2 June 2017 (The Independent)

Typography designer Liron Lavi Turkenich creates 638 character alphabet which can be read by speakers of both languages.


Which language would ease our way in the post-Brexit world?

24 May 2017 (The Guardian)

We Brits are pretty settled in our role as monoglots. Our default tactic of “speak English slowly and loudly so others can understand you” served us well enough – and then Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, put the boot in by claiming recently that “English is losing importance.”

Is this really the case? Experts are divided.


Language Perfect World Championships 2017

12 May 2017 (ALL)

This year's Language Perfect World Championships take place from 15 - 25 May.

Students participate in the world's largest online languages event over 10 days with the chance to earn certificates and qualify for awards and prizes by translating between their target language and English. The competition is relevant for everyone, whatever their ability.

The first 500 schools to register will receive 50 free entries. (ALL members can register all students for free).

Find out more about the competition via the ALL webpage and the competition website.


uTalk takes language learning to new heights with Emirates, the world’s largest international airline

26 April 2017 (uTalk)

London-based language experts uTalk are helping passengers on Emirates Airline prepare for arrival with new inflight language videos. They’ve produced a series of films, which can be seen on all Emirates flights, giving travellers an introduction to five languages, with beginner lessons covering first words, food and drink and getting around.


13 words we borrowed from Arabic

11 March 2017 (The Independent)

Arabic is one of the five most spoken languages in the world, with some 400 million users.

It's also one of the most ancient, varied and beautifully scripted languages in existence.

Its influence on Spanish since the time of the Moors is well known, but what's less well known is how many commonly used English words were actually taken from Arabic.


The teaching of Arabic language and cultures in UK schools

7 March 2017 (British Council / Alcantara Communications)

This report was commissioned by the British Council in March 2016 as part of its Arabic Language and Culture programme, which is now in its fourth year. It builds on previous research undertaken by Alcantara Communications and published as The teaching of Arabic Language and Culture in UK Schools. As a result of this initial research, the British Council developed and tailored its programme, continued to build its contacts with stakeholders in the field, and commissioned further in-depth research into key themes identified. These were contracted as separate strands, since they required different types of expertise. This report covers Strand 2 of the research: ‘Review of the teaching of Arabic language and culture in UK schools’.


Many Languages, One World - 2017 student essay contest

7 February 2017 (Many Languages One World)

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), in collaboration with ELS Educational Services, Inc., (ELS) invites students, 18 years and older, who are enrolled in a full-time course of study at a college or university, to participate in the Many Languages, One World Essay Contest.

The essay should discuss global citizenship and cultural understanding, and the role that multilingual ability can play in fostering these and must be written in one of the six official languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish).

Visit the Many Languages, One World website for more information about the competition and how to enter. Submission deadline is 16 March 2017.


Parents think Mandarin is most useful language for children, survey says

5 January 2017 (BT)

Mandarin Chinese is the most useful non-European language for children to learn, UK parents believe.

It will boost their child's career prospects, according to 51%of parents, while 56% felt it would open their children's minds to an "exciting and dynamic" culture.

Arabic and Japanese, which both picked by 14% of parents, were the other key non-European languages.

The figures were gained after 1,138 UK adults with children aged under 18 were questioned in a Populus survey commissioned by the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP).

French, Spanish and German were the top choices overall for young people in the UK to learn after being picked by 57%, 54% and 40% of parents respectively.


Heriot-Watt Multilingual Debate 2017

12 December 2016 (Heriot-Watt University)

Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event showcasing the interpreting skills of undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The 2017 Debates will take place on Wednesday 22 March with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. There are two Debates; one in the morning, one in the afternoon.

The Multilingual Debates are open to schools, colleges and universities and aim to stimulate interest and dialogue among young people in the international politics and social issues of the modern world whilst also setting language acquisition in a realistic context.

The topics for the 2017 Debates have just been announced and can be viewed on the YouTube video.

Visit the Heriot-Watt website for further information.


£3.9 million modern languages research project launched in Manchester

11 October 2016 (University of Manchester)

A consortium led by The University of Manchester has launched a four-year language research project which aims to demonstrate the UK’s critical need for modern languages research and teaching. The project will collaborate with schools and universities to develop curriculum innovations, and strengthen university commitments to local community heritage.

The launch of ‘Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community’, which is funded by an AHRC Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) grant, took place at The University of Manchester. They are leading a consortium which includes 11 other universities, city councils, the Royal Opera House, Tyneside Cinema, political think tank Chatham House, and a sixth-form college known for its strengths in modern languages.


The world's quirkiest phrases

29 September 2016 (BBC)

To celebrate International Translation Day, we asked translators from across the globe to tell us their favourite expressions. Here are 11 of the most surprising.


The top 9 languages for the highest-paid jobs in Britain

26 September 2016 (The Independent)

Learning a second language can be extremely lucrative for your career opportunities.

And after jobs search engine Adzuna analysed over 1 million live job postings on its website, it found out that some languages are more likely to get you a higher paid job than others in Britain, when employers advertised for jobs looking for someone who was at least bi-lingual.

Considering the UK voted to leave the European Union — dubbed a Brexit — and the nation does not know what that would entail for the jobs market, Adzuna's cofounder pointed out that having a second language could become even more sought-after, especially if businesses look to relocate overseas.


Vocab Express League of Champions 2016

1 September 2016 (Vocab Express)

Share in the excitement and energy generated by the Vocab Express League of Champions. The championship will run from Wednesday 28 September until Tuesday 4 October 2016. It's a fantastic way to engage students in vocabulary building by challenging them to compete against other schools across the UK and from around the world.

The challenge is free to all schools subscribing to Vocab Express. In addition, there are 150 free school places available to non-subscribers, each for up to 150 students.

There are currently 84 free non-subscriber school places left. Visit the website for more information and to register now!


Vocab Express League of Champions 2016

20 June 2016 (Vocab Express)

Create a languages buzz around your school to kick-start the new academic year!

Share in the excitement and energy generated by the Vocab Express League of Champions. The championship will run from Wednesday 28 September until Tuesday 4 October 2016. It's a fantastic way to engage students in vocabulary building by challenging them to compete against other schools across the UK and from around the world.

The challenge will feature French, Spanish, German, Greek, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Urdu, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin competitions.

The challenge is free to all schools subscribing to Vocab Express. In addition, there are 100 free school places available to non-subscribers.

Visit the League of Champions website to find out more and to register for one of the free school places. 


Study a language at LSE this summer

25 April 2016 (LSE careers blog)

Did you know that the LSE Language Centre offers summer courses? Each year, ‘Summer Languages’ has grown to include more languages, levels and courses of different levels of intensity. You may want to consolidate the language skills you have learned during the academic year, or you may want to try learning a language as a beginner. You could even restart learning a language you were taught at school.

More information about all the courses and languages available can be found on the LSE Summer Languages website.


Berlin’s Museum Tours in Arabic Forge a Bridge to Refugees

28 February 2016 (New York Times)

BERLIN — The Pergamon Museum is home to the famous Ishtar Gate, a monument of blue and white tile decorated with golden lions and daisies that was once the entrance to ancient Babylon. When Kamal Alramadhani, a 25-year-old Iraqi economics student, saw it for the first time this month, “I got goose bumps,” he said, pointing to his arm.

“It’s from Iraq,” he added quietly, through an Arabic translator. “My country.” A native of Mosul, Mr. Alramadhani studied economics at the University of Baghdad and came to Germany in October, part of a wave of asylum seekers that is stirring opposition here but also leading the government to look for ways to help the migrants adjust.

That afternoon, Mr. Alramadhani and about 30 others — some of them teenagers who had walked much of the way from Syria — were visiting the museum for the first time, on a free Arabic-language tour. It is part of a new and growing state-financed program to introduce the refugees to Germany’s cultural heritage — even, of course, when some of that heritage comes from the Middle East.


House of Lords debate on increasing understanding of the Middle East

23 February 2016 (They Work For You)

See comments from Baroness Coussins on the teaching of Arabic during the Lords' debate on increasing understanding of the Middle East.


Eddie Izzard will make you laugh in four languages

8 February 2016 (PRI / The World in Words)

Eddie Izzard has often joked about language from the silliness of Latin to why English speakers are so stubbornly monolingual. However, in late ‘90’s, Eddie decided that it wasn’t enough to joke about language; he wanted to joke in other languages. So in 1997 he took the stage and did his first set in France in French. It wasn't funny, he admits, but it was the start of a career goal to do stand-up in as many languages as possible. Eventually he did feel funny (and fluent) in French. Now, nearly two decades after that first French show, he has toured in not only French but German and Spanish. He intends to learn Russian and Arabic next.

The World in Words sat down with Izzard to find out why he’s decided to take his humor around the globe and how he’s managed to learn all these languages. (Warning: Parts of this podcast are definitely NSFW.).


Shakespeare Lives 2016

25 January 2016 (British Council)

This Shakespeare Lives schools’ pack has been created by the British Council in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016.

Specially designed to encourage learning across the curriculum, the resource is split into five key themes; Leadership and Power, Family and Relationships, Identity and Equality, Fate and Destiny, Justice and Rules. Within each themed section you will find a wide range of activities for pupils aged 7-14. These can be used as starting points in individual lessons or as elements of a cross-curricular project, which could be carried out with a partner school overseas.

Visit the British Council website for more information and to download the pack. On the site is a link to a number of videos created as part of the celebration. In addition to the English version, the 'Shakespeare Lives in 2016' animation is also available on YouTube in French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Mandarin.


Multilingual Debate 2016

19 January 2016 (Heriot-Watt University)

Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event that showcases the interpreting skills of undergraduate students on our Languages (Interpreting and Translating) degree programme, as well as the developing professional skills of postgraduate students on our MSc Interpreting and Translating programmes. The event takes the form of a formal debate with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. The teams deliver their views in their various native languages (French, German, Spanish, English, Arabic, Chinese, British Sign Language (BSL)).

The audience is mainly made up of pupils coming from Scottish and English secondary schools, but also university undergraduate students considering entering the interpreting profession, as well as government and local authority representatives. The audiences participated in the debate by listening to the arguments, putting questions to the speakers in the languages represented and voting on the motion.

The Multilingual Debate 2016 takes place on Wednesday 23 March at Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh campus.

To find out more about the debate topics and how to sign up to attend a session, see the video presentations in Arabic, BSL, Chinese, English, French and Spanish on the Heriot-Watt website.


Many languages, one world - student essay contest

11 January 2016 (ELS Educational Services)

Full-time university students are invited to write an original essay (2,000 words or less) discussing global citizenship and cultural understanding and the role that multilingual ability can play in fostering these. The essay should reflect your personal, academic, cultural and national context.

Essays must be written in an official language of the United Nations that is not your first language or primary language of instruction during your primary or secondary education.

Essays should be submitted by Thursday 31 March 2016.

Visit the competition website for more information..


World Arabic Language Day - 18 December

18 December 2015 (British Council)

It's World Arabic Language Day so why not learn about the language and culture with this resource from British Council Schools Online?


Vocab Express League of Champions 2015

14 August 2015 (Vocab Express)

Create a languages buzz around your school to kick-start the new academic year! The championship will run from Wednesday 30 September until Tuesday 6 October 2015. It's a fantastic way to engage students in vocabulary building by challenging them to compete against other schools across the UK and from around the world.

The challenge will feature French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Urdu, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin competitions.

The challenge is free to all schools subscribing to Vocab Express. In addition, there are currently still 50 free school places available to non-subscribers, each for up to 150 students.


Budding police constables must speak second language in Met pilot scheme

20 July 2015 (The Guardian)

Aspiring police constables must speak a second language to join London’s Metropolitan police under a month-long pilot scheme.

Scotland Yard is hoping the new criterion will help police “engage with London’s diverse communities as effectively as possible”.

From Monday, to be considered for one of the sought-after positions with the capital’s police force, applicants must speak one of 14 languages as well as English. 

They are: Arabic, Bengali, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Sinhala (Sri Lanka), Spanish, Turkish or Yoruba (Nigeria).


Related Links

Language recruitment campaign launched (Metropolitan Police, 20 July 2015)

Forget French and Mandarin - Arabic is the language to learn

12 July 2015 (The Independent)

The 10-year-old was looking at the card in front of him which showed an image of a fish. “Samak,” he said decisively.

He and his classmates at Horton Park primary school, in Bradford, have been learning Arabic for three years now, courtesy of a drive by the British Council to boost the take-up of the language in state schools.


Call for Mandarin and Arabic to be taught from primary school

9 April 2015 (Holyrood Magazine)

Studying a foreign language should be compulsory from the year children start school in order for Scottish firms to compete in the international export market, a business group has urged.

Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Arabic and Russian have been pinpointed by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) as “international languages of business” that must be made mandatory in the education curriculum from primary 1 onwards.

It has called on government to implement the measure by 2020 to ensure Scottish businesses have sufficient cultural and language skills to tap into a number of growing economies.

The demand is among a number of 'business asks', which also include staying in the European Union, set out as part of the Scottish Business Voice Campaign, led by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network.


Should UK schools teach Arabic?

24 March 2015 (Al Arabiya News)

Calls by a British Council report to introduce Arabic at schools in the United Kingdom in a bid to combat the country’s apparent language deficit have received mixed reactions, particularly among those concerned with the complexity of the language and with the likes of the British National Party making harsh criticisms of the idea in a way that some might regard as Islamophobic.

Since 2013 the British Council has been working with the Qatar Foundation to fund schools to help in the teaching of Arabic to UK school children. In an opinion piece published in Al Arabiya News on Tuesday, British Council Director for Bahrain Tony Calderbank argues it is extremely important that Arabic continues to be taught extensively.


Why Arabic should be taught in UK schools

19 March 2015 (British Council)

Should Arabic join other modern languages on the UK school curriculum? Yes, says the British Council's Tony Calderbank, whose own journey as a learner of Arabic has convinced him that knowledge of the language is essential to the UK’s long-term economic and cultural prosperity.


Related Links

Should UK schools teach Arabic? (Al Arabiya News, 24 March 2015)

Graduate opportunities to work at the British Council

16 March 2015 (British Council)

Want to start your international career with us? Applications are now open for our 2015 future leaders scheme.  You must be fluent in English and be capable and willing to learn one of the following languages: Arabic, Russian, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Portuguese or Japanese.

To find out more about the scheme and full eligibility criteria visit the British Council website.

Application deadline is 30 April 2015.


Mothers' advice, in their mother tongue

12 March 2015 (Gathered Together / Beamis)

This blogpost features videos of parents who have been actively involved in community and school groups giving their advice to other parents in their own languages – Arabic, Chinese and Urdu.


BBC Radio 4 Today programme - Foreign Office cuts

27 February 2015 (BBC Radio 4)

The next government must protect the Foreign Office from spending cuts or risk Britain's global influence, according to a committee of MPs. Their report also recommends increasing the pay of diplomats, which they say has fallen behind other civil servants. It also highlights the lack of trained Russian and Arabic speakers, and says the loss of expertise is affecting crucial analysis and information gathering. Listen from 54 minutes.  Replay available until 28 March 2015.


New post-graduate language programmes for 2015

10 February 2015 (Heriot-Watt University)

In response to feedback from students, graduates, and the profession Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has introduced several new language programmes for September 2015 entry:

  • MSc Interpreting 
  • MSc Translating 
  • MSc Arabic-English Translating 
  • MSc Chinese-English Translating 
  • MSc Cultural Resource Management (delivered in English)

More information is available on the Heriot-Watt website.


Why I would choose an immersion course over a language degree

6 January 2015 (The Guardian)

After a disappointing four year degree in Arabic, it was only in an immersion course that Fred McConnell discovered the magic of language learning.


Divine words: what role does language learning play in religious practice?

10 November 2014 (The Guardian)

“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation,” Sufi mystic Rumi once said.

Words are, however, a way for the worldly to connect with the divine through prayer and worship. For many, developing a greater understanding of a religion extends not only to studying the theological and philosophical points but to learning another language. We spoke to three people studying Arabic, Hebrew and classical Tibetan about the role languages play in their relationship with religion.


Language Perfect Northern Championships 2014

31 October 2014 (Language Perfect)

The search is on for the top language student and languages department in the northern hemisphere... The Northern Championships, taking place from 3-13 November 2014 , pitches students and schools in the northern hemisphere against one another, ONLINE and LIVE, from computers and iPod/Android apps. Teachers can watch the scoreboards for up-to-the-minute updates on how their school and students are going. Maybe your school will become the champions in 2014?

Visit the Language Perfect website for more information.


A series of blogs from the British Council on important languages for the UK’s future

10 October 2014 (British Council)

The final post in the British Council's weekly series on the ten most important languages for the UK’s future, as identified by the British Council’s Languages for the Future report, is about Mandarin Chinese. Here, the British Council’s Asmaa Ibrahim explains the characters, tonal differences, and sound similarities that make the language so fascinating.

Related Links

Read the other blogs in the series:

  • Arabic is in great demand and there’s a shortage of well-qualified speakers
  • Russian: beautiful, complex, and a window onto the unknown
  • Turkish: a fascinating structure and huge influence
  • The French language: romantic, precise, close to English
  • German and hipsters: the perfect match?
  • Single Japanese words can contain whole worlds of experience
  • How good is Italian for business?
  • Spanish: learning to speak the language of 400 million people
  • Which languages the UK needs and why

Arabic: more accessible than you think

3 October 2014 (British Council Voices)

'Though the script may look like loopy squiggles to an untrained eye, learning to read and write isn't as huge a challenge as most people expect.' This blogpost looks at learning the fifth most commonly spoken language in the world, Arabic.


Learn languages to boost your MBA

4 September 2014 (The Guardian)

In the increasingly globalised world of work, multinational companies are looking to hire business high-flyers who can communicate in several different languages.

Europe’s top business schools are responding to this need; courses at Insead, IESE, HEC, and London Business School incorporate a language requirement as well as the opportunity to learn and practise another language. Insead teaches Mandarin at Fontainbleu and in Singapore.

For some schools, a language component is a compulsory part of the MBA. The Insead MBA is taught exclusively in English, so fluency in the language is a pre-requisite, but in addition to that, another language at a practical level is also required for entry – and students are expected to add a third language by the time they finish their MBA. “At Insead we believe strongly in the importance of an international outlook and the ability to work effectively in multiple cultures,” says admissions director Pejay Belland.


Related Links

Doing an MBA abroad could give you a competitive edge (The Guardian, 4 September 2014)

Audio Lingua

12 March 2014 (Audio Lingua)

Audio-Lingua offers mp3 recordings in several languages. It is a collaborative bank of authentic audio resources, recorded by native speakers, and can be searched by level, topic and language.


7th Annual Conference for Arabic Language and Culture - conference presentations

6 December 2013 (British Council)

Conference presentations from the 7th Annual Conference for Arabic Language and Culture, this year supported by the British Council (BC), Qatar Foundation (QF) and the Mayor of London (MoL), are now available on the Schools Online website.


Shortfall in the languages the UK needs the most

20 November 2013 (The Guardian)

Three-quarters of the UK public are unable to speak one of the 10 most important languages for the country's future, a British Council report has found.

The British Council has called on government and business to work together to develop educational policy and priorities relating to languages. This follows a YouGov poll commissioned by the British Council, which found that of 4000 UK adults polled, 75% are unable to hold a conversation in any of the languages highlighted as crucial to the UK's economic standing.

The Languages for the Future report identified those languages, in order of importance, as: Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese.


Related Links

Read the British Council report here.

'Alarming shortage' of foreign language skills in UK (BBC, 20 November 2013)

UK warned over shortage of foreign language speakers (BBC News, 20 November 2013) - includes a link to audio item 'But why are British students so behind with foreign language skills?' BBC Radio 5 live's Breakfast reporter Rowan Bridge visited language teachers and students at Manchester College to find out.  (Available to listen to until Wednesday 27 November 2013).

Britons are told they must learn languages of success (The Herald, 20 November 2013)

Arabic beats French, Mandarin beats German and Spanish is best: UK's international education body highlights most important foreign languages to learn (The Independent, 20 November 2013)

Poor Language Skills 'Hampering UK Economy' (Sky News, 20 November 2013)

Languages must be as important as maths and science, British Council says (TES News blog, 20 November 2013)

Languages - Gift of bilingualism is too often 'squandered' (TES, 22 November 2013)

Foreign Office beefs up diplomats' language training

30 September 2013 (The Guardian)

Language centre provides a permanent location where staff undergo intensive training to prepare for overseas postings.


We speak your language, English clubs tell foreign fans

26 September 2013 (Reuters)

Manchester City and Liverpool announced an expansion of their social media presence on Thursday with more local language websites and Twitter accounts to cater for a growing international fan base.

Abu Dhabi-owned City launched 10 new Twitter accounts in addition to existing feeds in English and Arabic to engage with supporters in Chinese, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.


Language films at the first National Youth Film Festival

19 September 2013 (ALL)

Free screenings of foreign language films to inspire young people From Therese Desqyeyroux to Wadjda, from Clara and the Secret of the Bears to AninA, over 30 foreign films in languages including French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic and Hindi will be on offer at the first National Youth Film Festival, taking place from 21 Oct – 08 Nov 2013.

This groundbreaking new Festival is free to school groups all over the UK and offers young people aged 5-19 the chance to enjoy a wide variety of films, learn about film-making and meet film industry professionals. Linked to a packed programme of over 1600 free screenings, Q&A’s, workshops and events are over 100 teaching resources, including several related to the curriculum, to enable teachers to use screenings to bring learning to life, develop review writing and critical skills, or teach pupils about film and filmmaking. These range from a Beginner’s Guide to French Movies, to teaching ideas for, and guides to, individual films to encourage post-screening discussions and continued work back in the classroom.

Visit the ALL website for full details.


Glasgow has started the journey to implementation of 1+2 languages starting at early years!

19 August 2013 (Engage for Education)

Maureen McKenna, Executive Member for Education, Glasgow City Council said: “Glasgow has been working on a sustained and planned approach in the development of languages in the city to enhance the learning and teaching in our schools.

“Glasgow was ably represented on the Scottish Government languages working group by Gillian Campbell-Thow, an experienced principal language teacher who also has a city-wide language remit and support role for our schools in all sectors.

Glasgow is in the process of proactively working to encourage the uptake of 1 + 2 languages in primary schools across the city with more and more teachers being trained. This session primary teachers have the chance to train in French, Spanish, German, Italian and Gaelic. Early years training will be available in French, Spanish, Gaelic, Polish and Arabic.


Beast in the classroom, but nobody's panicking

14 June 2013 (TESS)

That's because this is a story about a wolfboy from Mars who is making children feel at home in Scotland, says Emma Seith.

Edinburgh's most multicultural school has found a unique way to welcome new students - a story book, in six different languages, written and illustrated by P6 children at the primary.


Related Links

Dalry Primary publish book on school’s diversity (The Scotsman, 14 June 2013)

British ambassadors struggle with Arabic

31 May 2013 (The Telegraph)

Only six of the 16 British Ambassadors in the Arab world speak enough Arabic to be able to conduct official business in the language, the Foreign Office has disclosed.


Language Summer School

9 May 2013 (London School of Economics)

Launched in Summer 2011 our Summer Language Programme is a range of, short but sweet Arabic, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish courses. Each year the programme has grown to include more languages, levels and courses of different levels of intensity.

Courses run at various times throughout July and August each year.

Visit the website for more information.


Comedy without borders: Eddie Izzard and the language of standup

24 April 2013 (The Guardian)

British comedian aims to deliver his show in French, German, Spanish, Arabic and Russian.


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SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages