Gordon Brown’s strategy to balance Britain’s import-export deficit with China by the exporting of educational services such as language teaching has a fatal flaw. The British are not exactly reknowned for their language learning and therefore by association the language teaching. Modern languages in Britain have suffered enormously in recent years culminating with the baffling decision to scrap compulsory language learning in schools rather than the increasing of such learning at earlier ages. Whilst it is true that Britain as the native speakers of the default business lingua franca has an advantage in being able to offer English language teaching the Chinese, I would have thought are far more likely to be impressed by someone that can offer language teaching in English at a fluent level as well as bringing a native tongue such as Spanish, German, French or Russian to the table.

Until this country readjusts its whole perspective on languages and their usage it is going to lag behind in the global market as Europeans with identical skills but a far more cosmopolitan outlook and experience are a far more attractive proposition to pan global employers such as the larger Trans National Corporations. In the current labour market companies wish to retain fluidity of the workforce as this is instrumental in their means of control. The ability to play off one country against another has already paid huge dividends in bringing down long-established workers rights in France and Germany by virtue of the threat of moving to countries like Hungary. We have also seen the first signs of those same companies showing willing to apply the same pressure to Hungary in order to drive down conditions further as they threaten the move further East to Romania and beyond. It would appear that this exodus is somewhat inexhorable until all roads lead to China.

However TNCs have not got to where they are today by putting all their eggs in the one basket, where they achieve profit and power they seek more and they will be looking for the next step expansion long before they all end up in China, India has many advantages in terms of size of population as well as some emergence of technological infrastructure but others will have to follow and these may include countries in South and Central America, other countries in SE Asia and North, South and perhaps West Africa. The implications for the skilled workforce must therefore surely be to retain a level of flexibility that allows you to ‘go where you are required’. Of course personally I do not hold with TNCs, I do not hold with Capitalism and I do not hold with the playing off of one countries workers against another’s in order to drive down the rights and conditions of both. Yet even I can see that if you are going to play the game and make your countries new generation fit to take part in this fiscal meat market you must equip them with the tools to function at the same level as their counterparts across the world. By failing to equip English people with the ability to learn languages they are being denied a whole slice of education that will leave them poorer socially as well as economically and menas an inefficient use of the country’s best resource, that of its people.

Studies even in this country have shown that the teaching of languages in nurseries and pre-schools has resulted in one principle problem only namely that these children are too advanced at primary and secondary level for the teaching that is provided. This country’s answer? Most of these schemes have been scrapped not expanded, rather than funding the whole language-learning system throughout age groups they have chosen instead to see this as a drain on funding. Thereby denying the youth of the educational benfits of a culturally rich and diverse upbringing. Is it any wonder there is racial tension in this country? Is it any wonder the working class youngsters are the prime target of the far-right

Should foreign immigrants speak English at home, fuck no, the British government will ensure your children get force-fed ‘Britishness’ until they sweat it from every pore, you stick to your guns and keep teaching them another culture and your children will grow up the better for it and will soon end up being the ones in real power in this country. What’s more they will have every right to be so.

Song Of The Day – Doves – Black & White Town

Original Comments:

Mark Ellott made this comment,
One of my greatest regrets is dropping French when I had to make my “O” level choices. I was good at it then. I’ve since had to relearn the hard way – and I’m by no means fluent. And the older you are when you start to learn, the more difficult it is. Children should be bi-lingual at least by the time they reach secondary school. Tri-lingual would be better.
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comment added :: 26th February 2005, 10:03 GMT+01
Diogenes made this comment,
Yes, unfortunately there is this Anglophone arrogance that the rest of the world should just speak English. There are consequences of this – such as the CIA having a shortage of Arabic speakers. But that is very much their problem.
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[Redbaron responds – It isn’t just the CIA, the British Diplomatic Service have much the same problem. There are very few places offering any level of arabic teaching which under the circumstances seems a little short-sighted.]

comment added :: 27th February 2005, 23:58 GMT+01
Diogenes made this comment,
While in Aust unis are cutting back on Asian languages…
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[Redbaron responds – Seems equally nonsensical, I mean it’s not as if there are any less Asian people than before or that you’re getting any further away from there!]

comment added :: 1st March 2005, 00:04 GMT+01