At the British Academy last week we released a report called Languages: State of the Nation. It analyses the worrying state of the current demand and supply of language skills in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and is the latest in a series of reports and position papers we have dedicated in recent years to the declining status of languages in our schools and universities. The aim of all our work is to drive home the message that languages are vital for the health and wellbeing of the education and research base, for UK business competitiveness and political standing, and for individuals and society at large.
The report draws on new data from a survey of UK employers and Labour Market Intelligence and demonstrates how we are suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills just at a time when the global demand for language skills is expanding. Worse still, in the words of the report, we are trapped in a “vicious circle of monolingualism”. Employers respond to the weak supply of these skills in one of two ways. The first is to realign their market, choosing to deal only with those who speak English, and therefore remove language requirements from their job adverts. Alternatively, if they are really pushed, they train existing staff with language skills or hire native speakers. Either way there are no market incentives for learners and little pressure on government to prioritise these skills. More.