Teaching important languages

bricolong

British Council ordering

As we have seen, the British Council report Languages for the Future gives a priority ordering of languages as above.

The question then is how this matches up with what is actually taught.  A further British Council report Language Trends 2014 gives the percentage of schools in the state and independent sector where particular languages are taught.

stateschoolang

Languages taught in state schools

indscholang

Languages taught in independent schools

We see that there is no particular sign of Arabic becoming widespread, nor even of Chinese doing so (though that is more common). We presume that ‘Arabic’ is Modern Standard Arabic in all cases and that ‘Chinese’ is Mandarin unless otherwise stated.

We can also look at the numbers of people studying for examinations at various levels.

exam_table

Numbers studying for various examinations

Here, the school examination numbers refer to the numbers of entries as given on the JCQ site while the ‘Degree’ figures refer to first-year full-time students doing first degrees, as on the HESA site.  Here, in the ‘Degree’ column, we have assigned all of ‘Russian and East European Studies’ to Russian and all of ‘Modern Middle Eastern Studies’ to Arabic.

We can try putting these various activities on a common footing by giving them a weighting based on the amount of time in years they take up (taking account of subsidiary languages/subjects for the Degree column).

weightings

Table of weightings

We would then like to compare the input for various languages with their importance according to the British Council report.  There is no obvious common unit of measurement between these two things, so it seems safest just to compare the rank of the languages according to these two measures. The table below refers.

comparison

Comparison of importance according to British Council with resource input, by ranks

On this crude basis, Arabic (especially), Portuguese and Turkish are under-provided, while Polish (heritage speakers) and the traditionally-taught languages French and German may be relatively over-provided, along with Italian.

But if you were just interested in studying languages and wanted to know which ones would be most profitable, the obvious course would be to do Spanish at school–which seems quite possible these days–and then Spanish & Portuguese at university..

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