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Primary Education News
News Anti-European sentiment 'turning children off learning languages'
Report finds A-level entries for French and German fell by half between 1996 and 2012, with language GCSEs also in decline
Anti-European sentiment is turning teenagers off modern foreign languages, experts have suggested.
There is an "erroneous" view that languages such as French and German are no longer useful when, in fact, they are still needed in the workplace, according to the language specialist Teresa Tinsley. Current "anti-European discourse" is not helping the issue, she said.
In a new report published by the CfBT Education Trust, Tinsley says that entries for A-level French and German fell by more than half between 1996 and 2012. There has also been a decline in students taking these subjects at GCSE, the report says.
"Entries for GCSE in Spanish and other foreign languages continue to rise, but not in sufficient number to compensate for the decline in French and German."
Tinsley said the falls in French may be more obvious because it is a widely studied language.
"It is possible that because French is the most commonly taken language, when you get a drop-off it affects these languages in the frontline more."
Tinsley said she understood the popularity of Spanish.
"I think there's a perception that French and German are not useful in the global economy, which is a totally erroneous perception.
"All the information shows that the languages that are most needed in the workplace are French and German and I think there is an erroneous perception that because Spanish is a global language, it is therefore going to be more useful – but that doesn't necessarily reflect the structure of our economy and the trading links that we have.
"I think that the rhetoric and the discourse around Europe and the anti-European discourse is not helpful for languages."
The report's co-author, Kathryn Board, added: "I would say, from a perception point of view, that when you look at society in general in this country and you see that pupils are not motivated to learn languages, parents are not motivating their children to learn languages and generally, we've got a society that doesn't recognise the value of languages, when you get a rhetoric in the media on a daily basis that feels anti-European, anti-eurozone, one might assume, over time, that it underlines an already unfavourable feeling about languages."
The comments come amid continuing debate over the UK's place in Europe.
Earlier this year, the prime minister, David Cameron, promised a renegotiation of UK membership of the EU if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election, followed by a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU. The move was a bid to shore up support among Eurosceptics including within the Tory party itself.