A good idea? Proposed compulsory foreign languages in schools from age 7… mais oui!

A good idea? Proposed compulsory foreign languages in schools from age 7… mais oui!

It’s no secret that England isn’t really a nation of linguists. We probably shouldn’t be surprised. For many years, relatively little has been done so far across the English educational system to enhance the nation’s foreign languages skills. All too often the “We’re English, the world speaks English” (and American!) message has prevailed, potentially costing the economy millions of pounds in missed export opportunities.

Foreign languages are taught at every level of the French education system

By contrast nations like France have always placed teaching of foreign languages at the heart of their curriculum – nurturing people’s chances to have a global understanding and entrepreneurs the confidence to seek growth overseas. There is no doubt business people who speak the local language are more in control of a situation, have a better ability to judge the dynamics of meetings and negotiate the best outcome for their businesses.

How many English SMEs won’t dare venturing abroad for lack of language skills? But there’s more to it than that. In a world where nations and peoples are ever more dependent on one another to supply goods and services, languages skills as well as cultural sensitivity and understanding are critical business skills. Learning a foreign language doesn’t just allow us to communicate with world citizens, it helps us truly engage with them by giving us broader cross-cultural awareness.

As a marketing agency specialising in international marketing and working with global clients, we understand only too well the value of speaking several languages and using specialist linguists to ensure we pick up the cultural nuances of a specific market. A marketing communications approach that works brilliantly in England won’t necessarily cut it in the BRICs.

So at Ohh la la we think making languages compulsory in English primary schools and turning children into global citizens is a great idea. Learning a language can give children an edge in so many ways – from enhancing their job chances, to conversing across social media in the local ‘lingo’ rather than their own and greater openness and understanding of other national cultures. And of course the younger children are, the easier it is for them to learn a language.

It’s time to turn a leaf, as the Les Anglais would say. English is no longer the only prominent language spoken in the world – other languages such as Mandarin and Spanish (and even French!) should all be encouraged in our schools.

Which language do you think should be made compulsory in schools?



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