The benefits of learning a language are clear. The most obvious ones include for your career prospects, for simple study and for relocating abroad. Studies have also shown that learning a foreign language has other less initially obvious advantages. In a 2011 study for the Canadian Psychological Society, the author showed clear evidence that bilingualism can delay the onset of Alzheimer's and allows multilingual children to prioritise tasks far better than monolingual children.
Second Language Acquisition
A separate study from the University of Chicago found that second language acquisition also enhances decision making in employees, with biases eliminated if a decision-maker has a second language to call upon.
A study by a Cardiff University professor found that the UK economy loses £48bn a year due to the lack of foreign language skills among staff. As native British people suffer from the lack of skilled language teachers in schools, organisations such as UBS and others find themselves transferring bilingual staff from overseas to work in the UK. This is costly and they would prefer not to do it. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that only 2% of British firms were satisfied with the foreign language skills of graduates, with companies finding it "virtually impossible" to find bilingual candidates of any sufficient calibre.
Brits and Language Learning
This begs a question: Why are the British so reluctant to learn foreign languages? The quality of language teaching in UK schools is poor for one, but this can be said for language teaching in schools across the world. If we delve deeper, we could say that British high school pupils lack the motivation to learn French or Spanish, because they see no genuine need for it, whereas a pupil in a Spanish school in a country with significant youth unemployment who watches US movies and who sees an elder sibling move to the UK has better motivation. If this is true, that is a sad state of affairs as there is clear evidence that multilingual Brits earn far more than monolingual ones.
The evidence comes from this report for the Bank of Philadelphia stating that a speaker of German stands to gain around $128,000 from their language skills over the course of their career whilst a French speaker will gain $77,000. That is not bad for an initial outlay of a few thousand pounds to gain greater fluency in a second language.
Unique Language Training Solutions recently backed the 1000 Words campaign to have British people learn 1000 words of a second language, but we believe that more organisations should do more to encourage their staff to learn a second language. Group classes help, one-to-one classes help more because the advantages to second language acquisition for individuals, businesses and the British economy as a whole are clear.
Mike Davies is a senior language teacher for the world's best provider of tailor-made language training courses, Unique. For further information, contact 44(0) 20 3566 0145, e-mail us or fill in the form on this screen.
Mike Davies is a language teacher at Unique Languages. He takes a look at the advantages of language learning and why more British workers don't try it.