Shadow ministers call for action to reverse the decline in foreign language learning in Wales
The Welsh Conservatives are calling on the government to take action to reverse the decline in the number of pupils learning modern foreign languages (MFLs) in Wales.
According to the recent Language Trends Wales report conducted by the British Council:
- GCSE entries for French and German had almost halved between 2015 and 2021, and by 11% and 12%, respectively, in the past year alone;
- GCSE entries over the past two years for languages other than French, German, Spanish, and Welsh have declined significantly from 626 in 2018 to just 175 in 2021, a 72% drop;
- 46% of responding secondary schools either do not have post-16 provision or do not offer international languages in the sixth form; and
- 78% of schools reported a negative impact from the Covid pandemic on language learning.
The report also noted the teenage population in Wales is growing slightly, so any decline in the numbers of students studying languages cannot be attributed to falling school enrolment.
Meanwhile, in England there were increases in French and Spanish from 2019 to 2020 (although there was a 2% increase in the GCSE-age school population) and that for the first time since records began, Spanish attracted over 100,000 entries, almost double the 2005 total.
Marking International Mother Language Day, the shadow ministers for education and the Welsh language say they would like to see the establishment of a framework that allows schools to become centres of excellence that specialise in MFLs and are pressing for a concerted drive to increase the uptake of foreign languages, teaching capacity, and the number of lessons pupils receive at an early age.
Laura Anne Jones and Samuel Kurtz say the declining numbers of students taking up MFLs is negatively impacting the life chances of Welsh pupils and the success for bilingualism here is an ideal launch pad to build a “trilingual Wales”.
“Foreign languages in our Welsh schools are in serious danger of going extinct. There is an urgent need to address this, if we are going to future-proof education and arm our children with the tools they need to be able to compete on an international stage, which is how our country is moving now post-Brexit,” Ms Jones, the Shadow Education Minister said.
“We know those who speak multiple languages benefit on numerous fronts and gain transferrable skills that would serve them well in adulthood, ensuring they can compete in competitive future job markets, travel and put them on a par with and lovely playing field with the rest of Europe, and the world.
“Labour cannot continue saying Wales is an open, international society, when it fails to enthuse pupils to take up foreign languages and are unable to recruit the necessary teachers to do so.”
“We are proud defenders of the Welsh language because, from it, we see that bilingualism is a positive force in Welsh society. Data suggests those who can speak more than one language have a higher level of employability and increased cognitive function,” Mr Kurtz, Shadow Minister for the Welsh Language, added.
“However, as a country, we shouldn’t just be limiting ourselves to two languages.
“Given the success of Welsh in demonstrating the benefits of bilingualism, International Mother Language Day is a great time to promote our calls for a concerted drive to increase the uptake of MFLs, so more people can experience the gift of speaking multiple languages.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.
I support this. Bilingualism (Welsh/English) should be a gateway to greater linguistic abilities in additional languages.
In my opinion, Welsh Tories should be putting forward their ideas to make Welsh children competitive in future job market and this is a good example of that.
You mean privatising the entire education system ? That’s about the sum total of their vision. Do not encourage them. Leave the stone unturned.
Tory Logic, take you out of the European union and then moan we don’t speak more foreign languages. Anyway put your efforts into the mess you’ve made of the UK, We’re seeing it hit the fan full on and your moaning about some pointless stuff, SORT out why your party is putting a 54% rise in our energy while France for example can give their population only a 4% rise Germany put a windfall tax on the companies and out that money into keeping prices down, Yet the conservative party would rather be taking the money for themselves as the… Read more »
I strongly support a trilingual Cymru. Cymraeg and Saesneg are a very good start but insufficient for many. A modern European language, Mandarin or Arabic would be an excellent addition.
But we are neglecting the languages that many migrants bring to Cymru from Sudan, India and China, for example. After Independence, such languages would assist our diplomatic corps, relationships with other countries and respect for their cultures. We should encourage and support migrants to retain their languages and pass them on to their children – potential future diplomats and scholars.
Agree. And Polish is one good example of what should be “low-hanging fruit” and an easy gain. In some parts of Wales – notably but not exclusively Deeside, Wrecsam, Llanelli – we have large Polish populations, and now a decade or two of “second-generation” children. I’d love to see them all being encouraged to rejoice in trilingualism, and gain the Polish GCSEs that should be within the reach of them and their schools.
For once, I agree fully with the Conservative shadow ministers. (!!) Yes, reverse the decline – and not just reverse it, but encourage and develop the learning of overseas languages. (Oh, and ensure we have the fiscal policies to ensure robust financing of language learning, and indeed of all aspects of education… they did mean that as well, didn’t they?) Here’s a sample of modern Wales for you. (It’s a sample size of one household, but that just makes the numbers 100%…) Yesterday evening my wife and I were watching TV: a riveting police drama (“The Bridge”), which was in… Read more »
Welsh is the first language in wales 🏴
Everyone in Wales is fluent in a foreign language.