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Initiative seeks to drive up foreign language take up

27/09/2013 Joanna
Staff in language teaching jobs could have a significant role to play in supporting a initiative aiming to increase the number of Britons who can speak a second language.

The 1,000 Words Campaign has been launched amid concerns the UK is missing out on international trade and jobs due to its workforce's poor language skills.

It forms part of the broader Speak to the Future initiative, which is backed by organisations such as the British Council, the Confederation of British Industry, the British Academy and several languages teaching bodies.

This latest scheme aims to encourage everybody to learn at least 1,000 words of another language, which campaigners say would be sufficient for holding a conversation, in order to challenge elitist notions about who can learn languages.

Vicky Gough of the British Council explained: "For too long people from the UK have suffered from a reputation that we are lazy linguists.

"Speaking another language is crucial to understanding another culture - so let's overturn our poor record in language learning and show that we're ready to engage with a multilingual world."

The campaign's organisers have pointed to data showing numbers of pupils taking GCSEs in French and German have fallen by 50 per cent over the past decade.

It is a trend that has been bucked recently, with entrants at GCSE level for French, German and Spanish up by 16.9 per cent last year, which has been attributed to the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in 2011.

This is a league table measure of numbers of pupils achieving a grade C or above in a foreign language, as well as maths, English, two sciences and history or geography.

Moreover, a report published earlier this year by the CfBT education charity revealed the proportion of state secondary schools where at least half of pupils are taking a GCSE in a foreign language rose from 38 per cent in 2010 to 50 per cent this year.

However, Teresa Tinsley of Speak to the Future told BBC News that as the EBacc is aimed at abler pupils, there is some evidence schools are targeting their languages resources at them, when language skills are required across the workforce.

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