Figures released recently by the Department of Education indicate that approximately 1.1 million children in the UK speak English as a secondary language rather than as their primary language.
A number of studies in recent years have indicated that bilingual children often have better cognitive abilities, and the insinuation is that those who speak more than one language could perform better academically too.
Association of Translation Companies
The ATC (Association of Translation Companies) has responded to the report into the number of bilingual residents in the UK by suggesting that the skills possessed by those who speak more than one language could have a significant and very positive effect on our economy.
Geoffrey Bowden, the ATC secretary, has made it clear that he feels that while these figures are promising, the UK should be further encouraging the uptake of additional language courses and taking steps to try and reverse the decline in terms of those choosing language subjects at a higher level of education.
Bilingualism, Trade and GDP
With a large part of the UK’s business ventures involving the export and import of goods, many believe that having more bilingual employees on the ground could be highly beneficial. Being able to communicate more effectively in the native tongue of business associates would likely strengthen business relationships, benefitting UK parties as well as those abroad wishing to deal with the UK. The bargaining power of someone who speaks the same language as those buying or selling on the other end of a business transaction should not be underestimated.
Adding significance to this assumption, a recent report submitted to UK Trade and Investment estimates that the current lack of language skills in the UK could be resulting in a loss of as much as 3.5% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Bowden recently announced: “The UK has a growing pool of language talent provided through immigration from the world’s leading and emerging markets. With so little interest amongst British people at present in learning languages, we must encourage those with a second language to support our export ambitions and our businesses’ aims abroad.”
It is clear that many believe there is a language crisis taking place in the UK, and that the poor uptake on language courses and the dwindling number of adults speaking more than one language could not only be stalling progress, but actually damaging the UK economy.
The question remains whether the trade associations, researchers and government officials looking into this dilemma will be able to secure enough recognition of the problem for a pro-active response to be agreed upon by the government in terms of encouraging more of our children to become bilingual.