European Day of Languages in the Brexit era by Claire Parkinson

September 26, 2019

26th September 2019 (today) sees the celebration of the European Day of Languages in countries across Europe and many language teachers up and down the UK will be organising special events and activities to mark this day of awareness, including many Kidslingo teachers.

The European Day of Languages aims to do the following: –

  • Celebrate the diversity of languages and cultures in Europe
  • Encourage language learning at any age
  • Promote intercultural understanding
  • Diversify the range of languages learnt

Yet this year I feel a certain tinge of sadness. As a day first organised 17 years ago by the European Union and the Council of Europe, the issue of Brexit seems to cast a shadow over the festivities.

In my role with Kidslingo, I have the absolute pleasure of teaching French to children from a very young age, working with nurseries and primary schools in my local area, and I can hand on heart say that learning a foreign language is a hugely positive and fun experience for all. Not only do the children pick up a second language with ease, they also develop a much deeper cultural awareness.

But rather than simply hearing my viewpoint, which some may argue could be little biased seeing as I am the teacher, I thought it would be of interest to hear the opinions on this matter from the younger generation themselves, namely my two daughters.

My eldest daughter has just left home for University, so at 18 years old she is no longer a child. She studied French up to A level and passed with ease, and she has told me that she is very grateful for the encouragement I gave her to enjoy and embrace language learning for a number of reasons. This summer she travelled to France twice and enjoyed being able to communicate fluently with the locals during her visits. She says she would not have had the same experience without the level of linguistic and cultural understanding that she possesses, all due to her studies. She enjoys reading French literature and watching French films and has friends who live in France – what’s more she is so much more open to learning other languages. When looking around universities last year as she made her decision over where to study, the tutors we spoke to were all impressed that she was taking an A level in French, even though she was not looking to study languages at degree level. Indeed, it became clear that language learning is highly encouraged at university alongside any degree with the many ‘languages for all’ programmes they have in place. Now she has started University she is keen to learn Italian just for fun. When she read that some parents actively discouraged language learning she was horrified – and she said that she will still want to travel and communicate post Brexit.

My younger daughter is in a very different place in her educational journey – this year she will decide which subjects she wishes to study at GCSE. Currently in year 8, she studies both French and German. Although I would love her to pick a foreign language, the decision is entirely hers but after reading the report in July I asked her for her thoughts. Her reply was simple and to the point, “I will take a foreign language, probably French, because ‘why wouldn’t I’ – it’s the fun option”. Now you may say that she obviously has an advantage because her mum and sister both speak French, but as many parents know, it can prove completely impossible to teach your own children. Some just won’t listen or concentrate when a parent is ‘being the teacher’ and this is the case with my youngest daughter – any bit of language competence she has, she has because she has done it herself. She sees the confidence her sister has in knowing another language and she wants to do the same.

So there you have it – two opinions which both back up what I, my Kidslingo colleagues and all language teachers everywhere all know – language learning at any age is fun, doesn’t have to be difficult, has a huge number of benefits and will still be necessary whether we are in or out of the European Union. Let’s hope all that children will experience the chances and opportunities that knowing a second language will give to them.

26th September 2019 (today) sees the celebration of the European Day of Languages in countries across Europe and many language teachers up and down the UK will be organising special events and activities to mark this day of awareness, including many Kidslingo teachers.

The European Day of Languages aims to do the following: –

  • Celebrate the diversity of languages and cultures in Europe
  • Encourage language learning at any age
  • Promote intercultural understanding
  • Diversify the range of languages learnt

Yet this year I feel a certain tinge of sadness. As a day first organised 17 years ago by the European Union and the Council of Europe, the issue of Brexit seems to cast a shadow over the festivities.

In my role with Kidslingo, I have the absolute pleasure of teaching French to children from a very young age, working with nurseries and primary schools in my local area, and I can hand on heart say that learning a foreign language is a hugely positive and fun experience for all. Not only do the children pick up a second language with ease, they also develop a much deeper cultural awareness.

But rather than simply hearing my viewpoint, which some may argue could be little biased seeing as I am the teacher, I thought it would be of interest to hear the opinions on this matter from the younger generation themselves, namely my two daughters.

My eldest daughter has just left home for University, so at 18 years old she is no longer a child. She studied French up to A level and passed with ease, and she has told me that she is very grateful for the encouragement I gave her to enjoy and embrace language learning for a number of reasons. This summer she travelled to France twice and enjoyed being able to communicate fluently with the locals during her visits. She says she would not have had the same experience without the level of linguistic and cultural understanding that she possesses, all due to her studies. She enjoys reading French literature and watching French films and has friends who live in France – what’s more she is so much more open to learning other languages. When looking around universities last year as she made her decision over where to study, the tutors we spoke to were all impressed that she was taking an A level in French, even though she was not looking to study languages at degree level. Indeed, it became clear that language learning is highly encouraged at university alongside any degree with the many ‘languages for all’ programmes they have in place. Now she has started University she is keen to learn Italian just for fun. When she read that some parents actively discouraged language learning she was horrified – and she said that she will still want to travel and communicate post Brexit.

My younger daughter is in a very different place in her educational journey – this year she will decide which subjects she wishes to study at GCSE. Currently in year 8, she studies both French and German. Although I would love her to pick a foreign language, the decision is entirely hers but after reading the report in July I asked her for her thoughts. Her reply was simple and to the point, “I will take a foreign language, probably French, because ‘why wouldn’t I’ – it’s the fun option”. Now you may say that she obviously has an advantage because her mum and sister both speak French, but as many parents know, it can prove completely impossible to teach your own children. Some just won’t listen or concentrate when a parent is ‘being the teacher’ and this is the case with my youngest daughter – any bit of language competence she has, she has because she has done it herself. She sees the confidence her sister has in knowing another language and she wants to do the same.

So there you have it – two opinions which both back up what I, my Kidslingo colleagues and all language teachers everywhere all know – language learning at any age is fun, doesn’t have to be difficult, has a huge number of benefits and will still be necessary whether we are in or out of the European Union. Let’s hope all that children will experience the chances and opportunities that knowing a second language will give to them.

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