Conference acknowledges the importance of learning foreign languages, both for the enhancement of a person’s communication skills as well as the significantly positive effects that speaking foreign languages brings to the economy. Conference also acknowledges the significant deficit that Scotland and the wider UK currently present in written and spoken fluency in foreign languages. A recent survey commissioned by the British Council found that 75% of the adult UK population was unable to hold a fluent conversation in any foreign language. As a result of this, an estimated £48bn (or 3.5% of GDP) is lost every year to the UK economy due to this language deficit. Likewise, a recent report also published by the British Council suggests that interest in taking foreign languages as a subject (both at School and University) is progressively declining across the UK, with Scotland not being an exception: French and German are in decline for both Standard Grade and Higher qualifications, and students choosing languages as a degree (or part of a degree) are also steadily decreasing.
Conference commends the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle this foreign language deficit by establishing a Languages Strategic Implementation Group (SIG) in 2013, aiming to provide a framework and recommendations for implementing a 1+2 approach to foreign language learning. Conference also commends the Scottish Government’s ambition to entitle every child in Scotland with the option to learn a foreign language from primary one until the end of S3. However, Conference notes that, despite making a step towards generalising foreign language learning in Scotland, the proposal does not really tackle the decreasing interest in taking a language subject and does not guarantee that it will have a significant effect on tackling the language deficit in Scotland. Conference therefore urges the Scottish Government to follow the steps of all European countries by making it compulsory to learn one foreign language from Primary 1 through to S4 (National 4 level), whilst providing students with the option to study a second foreign language simultaneously. Conference believes that this would equip all students with a standard level of written and spoken fluency in a foreign language as well as galvanising students into developing an interest for developing their foreign language skills and levels even further.