Language learning is inextricably bound up with history, culture, business and economics. It is also a mental exercise that delays dementia – and many children find it fun, too. Readers’ responses to Simon Jenkins’ claim that modern language classes in schools are irrelevant
Simon Jenkins is accurate in nReadoting the falling numbers studying languages in the UK (Ignore the panic. There is little point learning languages at school, 25 August, theguardian.com). Almost everything else in his article flies in the face of the evidence. Reports from the British Academy, CBI, UK Trade and Investment and the British Council demonstrate not only the UK’s deficit in terms of language skills relative to its competitors, but also the clear benefits of learning languages across a whole range of domains such as health, security, business, diplomacy and intercultural understanding.
All the evidence shows clearly that speaking English is not enough in the contemporary world. The concept of “global English” is based on the very high numbers of people internationally who have learned English as a second language and who are therefore, by definition, bilingual or multilingual, benefiting from all the well-attested advantages – cognitive and other – of speaking more than one language.