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However, the courses that teach the diploma are threatened by a lack of funding. The course has been taught in the FE sector with funding allocated by the Learning and Skills Council, but the current priorities of the LSC are for education and training at basic and lower levels. The DPSI is rated as level 6, which is equivalent to an honours degree, and so is losing out. The consequences of this will be insufficient affordable courses and fewer fully qualified public service interpreters against what is already acknowledged as a national shortage. Will the Minister undertake to look again at this and see what can be done about adjusting the funding criteria of the LSC to prevent something from happening that is so much at odds with the Government's policies on community cohesion and social mobility?

If languages are part of the solution to economic recession, at least a little green shoot is visible in primary schools. Ninety-two per cent now offer some language teaching, and it will be compulsory from 2011, but we really cannot just wait for today's seven year-olds to come through the system. The Government and the universities must respond positively and quickly to the recommendations of the Worton review. A third

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of modern language departments have closed in the past seven years, and according to Professor Worton there is a strong sense in the universities that the importance and value of languages are not properly understood either by government or by potential students.

Professor Worton calls on the Government to up the ante on expectations for secondary schools. I hope that the Minister will agree to take this up with his DCSF colleagues, in particular the need to upgrade to a mandatory target the current very vague hope that 50 to 90 per cent of students will take a language until they are 16. We know that this is completely ignored by the vast majority of state schools, which do their pupils a great disservice by excluding them from one of the skills that would maximise their employability.

The principal recommendation for the Government in the Worton review, however, is to upgrade their own messages about the importance of languages and to work with others across all sectors to communicate them. I warmly welcome the announcement that the Minister of State, David Lammy MP, will chair the new forum, in which government, HEFCE, the universities, CILT, schools and employers will all work together on this, but could the Government please be more consistent and remember languages all the time? It is quite astonishing and extremely disappointing that the new national strategy, Skills for Growth, published only two weeks ago, does not contain one single mention of language skills. I hope that I have given enough examples today to convince the Minister that a strategy that says its objectives are economic growth and individual prosperity is seriously incomplete without language skills being integrated into it, and I ask the noble Lord whether he will take urgent action to amend it.

Languages are often forgotten when the so-called strategically important and vulnerable subjects are discussed. Science, technology, engineering and maths always get top billing and I do not seek for one moment to detract from their importance, only to achieve a higher profile alongside them for languages, which have been equally designated within the SIV definition.

Another important message that teenagers, teachers, parents and careers advisers need to hear is the finding of a survey of earnings three and a half years after graduation, which showed that modern linguists earn more than graduates from any other discipline except medics, architects and pharmacologists.

The last message from the Worton review that I want to flag up, and which I would be reassured to know the Minister was prepared to discuss with the universities, is the way in which admissions policies can influence the take-up of languages. I very much regret that my own university, Cambridge, recently abandoned the requirement for all students to have a language qualification as a condition of entry. This was motivated by the desire to widen access, but how much better would it have been to adopt the model agreed by University College, London, which has introduced a language requirement, irrespective of degree subject, with the proviso that students who cannot comply, possibly because their school did not provide or encourage it, must agree instead to undertake

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a language course during their first year at university. This seems a much more constructive way of underpinning the importance of languages without risking elitism, and it should be applauded and copied.

I believe that every young person in the 21st century will need a measure of modern language competence, whether specialist and learned or basic and conversational, every bit as much as they will need IT skills, English and maths. You could call it a utilitarian asset but it is much more than that. It is also the key to intercultural understanding, to the fun of participation, to the pleasure of literary discovery and the gateway to a more civilised co-existence with other people. I beg to move.

11.53 am

Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, for her most excellent and comprehensive speech and, in particular, I second her question about why language skills were omitted from the Skills for Growth strategy.

I declare two interests which may be relevant to this debate. First, I am chairman emeritus of the International Council of the English Speaking Union, and I wish to say something about the role of the English language. Secondly, I am president of the British-German Association, and I wish to refer to German language learning in British state sector schools.

The only area where I may have a slight nuance of difference with the noble Baroness concerns what is happening to the growth of English at present. It is worth reminding ourselves in this debate of the unique position of English as a global language, because it has great relevance to the British economy. The truth is that the four languages in the world spoken by the greatest number of people are, as one might expect, Chinese, Hindi, Arabic and English, but of course English is there for a different reason from the others. It is there because of the number of people who are not native English speakers using the language. The number is extraordinary and continues to grow because English has a huge momentum of expansion. To give an example, over 200 million people in China are learning English. Indeed, it is not really possible for anyone to enter a university in China without a foreign language qualification, and over 98 per cent choose English as the language they should learn. That is an enormous driver of English and therefore extremely important.

The international expansion of English began 400 years ago with the first permanent settlement in Jamestown. At the time roughly 3 million people were using the English language globally, mainly in the British Isles and the West Indies, and we are now reaching a figure of something like 2 billion English language users worldwide, with the figure still increasing. It is worth remembering that.

Should we do anything other than rejoice at this phenomenon? Rejoice we should, because if English was not in this position, economically we would be far weaker than we actually are. However, there is a reason for having some reservations and doubts about this. A problem is that the dominance of the English language

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encourages us to commit an own goal because it encourages us not to bother with other languages. The following story is no doubt apocryphal, but I enjoy it. In the 1950s, a US senator testifying on the Hill about the inadequacy of foreign language learning in American schools was becoming increasingly irritated by his cross-examination. In the end he banged the desk and said, "Gentlemen, if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for us". We must not fall for that sort of folly.

The failure to get to grips with foreign languages has many consequences, and in introducing the debate the noble Baroness focused quite rightly under its terms on some of the economic consequences, but it is also worth referring, as indeed she did briefly, to the cultural impact. I think it was Goethe who said that you cannot possibly understand your own language unless you can speak someone else's. That remains a profound truth, and the enrichment at the cultural, intellectual and even spiritual levels of being fluent in another or several languages other than English is very great. But, as the noble Baroness pointed out, there is increasing measurement of the economic cost of the relative inadequacy of foreign language learning in Britain. While I cannot add any data, I want to cite one or two examples.

It is particularly dangerous, when travelling in countries within continental Europe where English is highly prevalent-for example, Germany-to assume because people are speaking to you in English, that is their preference and they are saying the same things as they would be saying to you if they could speak in German. I had a good example of that some years ago with the Siemens company when attending a major company seminar in Berlin. The whole seminar was conducted in English. But when I came out during the coffee breaks, everything was happening in German, and I was able to listen to what the Germans were actually saying about the session from which they had just come-which had been held formally in English, even down to the PowerPoint illustrations. Their take on the session was quite different, and that was because of the difference in the language.

I have mentioned that the British-German Association is involved with German language learning in schools. We have a scheme called Youthbridge, which is now active in over 50 schools in England. I should like the Minister to note, because it might be of some practical help, that we have found that by far the most important single initiative in increasing the enjoyment of another language in those schools-in this case German-has been the purchase we carried out of Astra satellite dishes so that the children can get German television. That has shown those children that there is a huge society not many miles away from them which, while indeed a different language is spoken, shares with them a great wealth of experience, variety and lifestyle. That has made the language real in a way that teachers told us would be difficult otherwise to put across.

It is also interesting that Youthbridge receives no government funding; it is funded entirely by British and German companies, which clearly understand its which importance. It is against that background that the decision in 2004, which we debated in this House-I

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remember expressing dismay at the time-to suspend compulsory foreign language learning after the age of 14 for GCSE was quite clearly a mistake. What has happened since bears that out. The number studying French in British state schools has fallen by more than 30 per cent since 2004. We are now in the ludicrous situation that of the number of children learning foreign languages, only one in 11 is learning German, for example, and one in nine is learning French. That is not good enough. Given the huge economic importance to us of both the German and French markets, that is an own goal that we cannot tolerate.

On the role of English in the European Union, a recent survey showed that 86 per cent of all officials who work for all the institutions in the European Union have English as their preferred second language. It is interesting to me, as an enthusiast of the European Union, that underlying Euroscepticism is a strange combination of insularity and insecurity-and one of the reasons for the insecurity is a feeling that they are not talking our language. However, the truth is that they are talking our language overwhelmingly, certainly within the new member states. So, in the economic and political context, English has a strong position. Of course, the relationship changes if you also are offering the other person's language.

We should rejoice in the unique position of English but seek the competitive advantage of, in addition, having other languages. If we cannot achieve both, we seriously underplay our own strengths and limit our opportunities. In replying to the debate, I hope the Minister will make clear to the House what the plans are for foreign language learning for over-14s and whether the 2004 decision can be decisively reversed.

12.03 pm

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, on introducing this debate on such an important and relevant subject, particularly as it comes so shortly after the Worton report.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said, the ability to speak another language-or, preferably, other languages-is an enormous asset in government, business and all kinds of agencies. One has only to look at the emphasis that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office places on the skill-it requires its entrants to learn the language of the country in which they will be stationed-to realise that it is very important. The noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, referred to the position in China. When I was in Beijing, I learnt with great interest that 25 per cent of all teaching in all universities in China has to be in English. Such a requirement would shock us in this country, would it not?

I should like to raise, from my experience at both King's College, London and the University of the West of England in Bristol, two issues regarding the teaching of languages in universities. The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, raised comprehensively the subject of funding, but I want to tie it to a particular issue at King's College London.

As I am a former vice-chairman of the council at King's, I consulted its modern languages department, which is one of the oldest language centres in the

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United Kingdom. It has something like 1,400 undergraduates doing modular courses in addition to their degree course. One-third of them come from the School of Medicine, which I thought was a particularly interesting figure. The centre also offers MA and PhD students an opportunity to take up a language to enhance their research and career prospects. That, however, has to be cross-funded by its external contracts, and the long-term financial sustainability of the project is uncertain. There is general concern at the language centre about the survival of language courses, a concern which is shared by universities across the country.

The second issue is the negative culture, or, perhaps more accurately, the negative perception of the usefulness of modern languages by students generally. I declare an interest as I have been the chancellor of the University of the West of England for the past 16 years. A former polytechnic, it is now a large university with about 30,000 students, with more than 3,000 students from foreign countries. We have agreements with more than 60 international institutions, so there is a major foreign element to our university. The university recognises the importance of languages, particularly for internationalisation and employability.

I asked the vice-chancellor what the approach was to teaching languages at UWE, and I received a very depressing answer. Student demand is small, which may very well be due to the fact that the teaching of languages generally is seen to be done better at the older universities. UWE has offered good courses, including Chinese studies, but it has not received students of sufficient calibre and, with regret, has ceased recruiting from 2009 in French, Chinese studies and Spanish. It continues to offer an MA in translation that is very well supported and one of its highest-recruiting courses. The university therefore intends to continue teaching language teachers and postgraduate translation, and will set up a technical language centre to allow students to take a language module with their degree, very much along the lines of King's College, London.

Is it not sad that one of the major advantages of a large and successful former polytechnic-the preparation of the student for the workplace-is not being sufficiently accessed by those students who might find themselves at a real disadvantage by not having sufficient foreign language skills? The polytechnics, now the new universities, are particularly good at training for the workplace, and our vice-chancellor is very sad to be stopping those language courses.

It is a sad reflection on a wider student view of the need to learn a language. This view no doubt starts in schools, where languages have played a smaller part than they should have done. I regret to say that, until very recently, that has been encouraged by the Government's not requiring students over the age of 14 to learn a language. Only 44 per cent of pupils took a language at GCSE in 2009, compared with 76 per cent in 2000. That is a direct result of the non-requirement for languages at GCSE. This feeds into the attitude to learning languages either as a module with one's degree or for the sake of languages at university, since the majority of students will come from state schools.



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We need a change of culture. We need a significant prod from the Government to reverse a worrying trend that will continue to inhibit our economy unless it is checked soon.

12.09 pm

Lord Harrison: My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, for the excellence of her introduction but also for bringing to our attention this very important problem of jobs and languages. I, too, look forward to my noble friend's reply, as he specialises in small businesses. I hope that he will say something interesting and sensible about the acute difficulties of small businesses in their failure to have language acquisition and be able to trade across the European Union and wider. My own suggestion is that there should be some form of flying linguist to help small businesses which want to broaden their normal market share.

In 2003, the Government published their national language strategy, which pointed to some of the deficiencies-how too few employees learn languages and too few employers help employees to learn languages. Indeed, only one in four firms organised any form of language training. More recently, the regional development agencies did an audit of such languages and found three out of five firms used at least one language in their daily work, while one in 10 use as many as five. But the significant figure is that one in five of the firms asked demonstrated or said that they had lost business, first, because of poor language skills but, allied to this, because of poor cultural understanding of those to whom they were selling services or goods. This is a point on which I wish to dwell. Of course, having a language is not simply a matter of conversing with someone in another language, to order a beer or whatever; it is the key to cultural understanding and to understanding the market to which you sell goods or provide services. If you fail to understand that, you make failures in providing for such goods and services and therefore reduce the opportunities for jobs.

The most famous faux pas is an old one-but the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, is used to old ones, as well. The previous President Bush went across to Japan with the three chiefs of the car industry and asked the Japanese why they did not buy the gas guzzlers that were habitual in the United States of America. That is entirely attributable to a cultural misunderstanding and a lack of understanding of the Japanese language, through which one understands about the Japanese way of life. We have to repair that, as we see the position now in which Japanese cars are the top sellers in the United States of America.

These views have been confirmed recently by Professor Michael Worton, who came to our All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, which has been so well led by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. There is a very important chapter in his report on graduate employability and languages. The report that came out only last month from BIS says that language learning enhances students' employability and gives a deeper understanding of other ways in which to think and express ideas.



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Lord Dykes: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord in the middle of his sentence, but is it not also true that George Bush said on a visit:

"The thing that's wrong with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur"?

Lord Harrison: Yes, I left that one out, but it is absolutely true as I understand it.

En passant, if I may, there has been much kafuffle this week about the appointment in the European Union, following the passing of the Lisbon treaty-and I am aware that I have two very distinguished colleagues here who associate themselves with the European Union. Is it not an ultimate irony, as the noble Lord, Lord Watson, explained in terms of the German example, that our colleagues habitually speak English and often speak many other languages? While Nye Bevan once said that he did not want to be sent naked into the debating chamber on the issue of nuclear bombs, the truth is today that we for the most part send our British representatives tongue-tied into the negotiation chamber. There are few British politicians who have fluency in another language. Indeed, I remember that one of the few with some fluency, Prime Minister Blair, expressed his love and admiration for his French counterpart, Lionel Jospin, more in the way of being carnal than fraternal.

One of the excuses already alluded to has been that everyone else in the world speaks English; this has been repudiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. They do not. South America is one example and China has been given as another. China is a huge country and is furiously acquiring English. It may well be that, in time, China will have more English speakers than the United Kingdom, but it will still be a foreign country with many different languages which we ought to make the effort to understand so that we can provide jobs for our people.

When I was a Member of the European Parliament in the 1990s, English was used as a lingua franca, but it was a changing English. This, again, confirms what the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, was saying. We may find English as we know it disappearing. That is all the more reason why we should learn languages: to speak to our colleagues in them.

I say to the Minister that we may need some fresh thinking on these issues. I have a ready example from my wife, a French teacher. In Chester in the 1990s she had the idea, which went against the national curriculum, of recognising that Chester is a tourist town. A tourist town attracts many of our continental colleagues. She had great difficulty teaching her students the literary French of Racine and others, but had the idea of providing them with job skills so that they spoke a number of languages and could therefore be employable within the shops and services of Chester. To this day, however, you still do not see "Man spricht Deutsch" or "Si parla Italiano" in any Chester outlets, which would at least be an encouragement for people to come into the shops with the knowledge that they can speak their own language and get served properly. We must do more there.

We must also do more about the informal acquisition of language. Again, I go back to what the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Richmond, said about German TV.

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It is difficult for our young people to acquire the skills, or be encouraged to learn them. Pop music is in English; films and TV programmes are in English. It would be good if we had some influence in this country over what is done on the continent to encourage our young people and show them that there is something worthwhile in that.

We should recognise the contribution of the languages within our own country. We scorn Welsh. We should not scorn a vibrant language. We should take advantage of those from the sub-continent. It is a huge market, and we should acquire the languages that are already here.


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