We hear a lot about political figures and heads of unions criticising the curriculum and other aspects of the curriculum. However, this time, England legend and TV presenter Gary Lineker has spoken out about languages and the school curriculum.
The host of Match of the Day was speaking about the importance of learning languages for young people today, adding that it was more relevant to their every day lives than other subjects such as the sciences.
Himself a fluent Spanish speaker after a successful three-year career playing for Barcelona, Mr Lineker believes students should learn a foreign tongue because it will always be useful in later life. “Personally, I look at what we have to study at school and some subjects like science might help at some point in your life for a percentage of people, but the learning of languages, for me, will always be helpful for the vast majority at some stage in their life,” Mr Lineker said. “Yet it’s not really treated, to my mind, seriously enough on the school curriculum. I think we should do more and encourage people to learn a language.”
Following a glittering career both in England and in Spain, Mr Lineker also picked up some Japanese during a two-year stint playing for Nagoya Grampus Eight, in the country’s J League.
On Wednesday, Mr Lineker had given away free access to Rosetta Stone language courses to 300 students across the UK, and he said being able to speak another language can boost young people’s confidence. “There’s an attitude abroad and sometimes it’s understandable that we’re a bit pompous or arrogant and we think everyone should speak English. I don’t think it really does us any favours in terms of how people see us,” he said. “There is no question in my mind when you speak someone else’s language, certainly in their country, they’re normally pretty appreciative of the fact. That’s my personal experience. Plus, it gives you a lot of self esteem if you can converse with people abroad, which is an important thing and perhaps shows where chemistry and physics may not help the majority of people but learning a language will.”
I can see where Mr Lineker is coming from, although it is becoming more and more clear that English is considerably wide-spoken. It is also clear that with the current economy, only certain incomes can afford to travel abroad year on year, meaning that some people may never travel to a foreign country in their lives. Because of this, some will question why their children would need to learn another language.
Of course the other side of this coin is that we are seeing more and more migrants entering this country, bringing with them their own cultures and language. Being able to converse with them in their language will show that we are prepared to embrace their culture. There is a part of me, however, that believes that if migrants are prepared to enter our country, then they should be prepared to embrace our culture and speak our language to a high standard. If I were ever to travel to a foreign country, I would expect to do the same. Of course it’s a lot harder than that because languages become an option rather than a statutory requirement after GCSEs. With so many subjects trying to be crammed into the primary curriculum, subjects like languages and the arts can just as easily fall by the wayside. This new curriculum to be introduced next year has made reference to MFL, but the detail is vague, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it can be fitted in.