The solution to the decline in the study of Modern Languages

The solution to the decline in the study of Modern Languages by senorjerome

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 10th May 2011 and has been read 4609 times.

As yet another BBC news item about the decline in the study of Modern Languages in the UK emerges, I thought I should write a post to explain my opinion on why this is and also to propose a solution. I think there are two reasons that students choose non-language courses at university - one is quite obvious, but the other is never mentioned in the press (despite its importance) and TYA can help.
The first reason is that the majority of students think (perhaps rightly) that they can get by anywhere in the world with their English language skills and a healthy dose of gesticulation, so why on earth would they take out a hefty loan to learn another language instead of studying a 'useful' subject like European Business or Law? As die-hard language enthusiasts, we obviously have a whole list of the benefits of learning languages which I won't go into here, but I think it comes down to the fact that amazing range of jobs which require language skills are not promoted well enough. No, you aren't necessarily destined for a career as a teacher/translator/interpretor! We know jet-setting auctioneers, video game manufacturers, high-flying international entrepreneurs, journalists and news broadcasters, all who have got to where they are today because of their language skills.

The second reason is simply and entirely to do with Modern Language courses at university. They are notoriously among the most difficult (if you're in final year and you can't string a sentence together or do the accent properly, it's pretty obvious. No amount of cramming will help...) and they involve a compulsory year abroad which means a whole extra year out of the job market and an extra year of student debt. But does it? 

Nope. At we hear that every day - but it's simply not true.

Students can either work or study on their year abroad. If they work, not only do they get valuable experience in the job market (in the industry of their choice) on their CV, an international network of contacts and a working knowledge of their foreign language - they also get paid. If students want to study in Europe on their year abroad, they can sign up to the Erasmus Programme and get ALL of their university tuition fees paid for them*, an Erasmus grant of (currently) €225 per month and still have time for a part-time job. It is possible to return from the year abroad with as much money as when you left, if not more!

Of course, the other argument against studying languages at university is that it involves a 4-year course and students don't want to come back to university after a year abroad to find that all their 3-year course friends have already graduated. If this is really going to be a problem for you, it's worth considering a Scottish University where all courses last 4 years so you can graduate along with your friends.

So I mentioned a solution to The Big Problem and here it is: If students were informed of the innumerable benefits of a year abroad, knew how much employers love year abroad graduates and used a support network like to make the whole process less scary - chatting to other people going to or already at their destination, asking questions and getting advice, language support, career help and information on all the most complicated aspects - especially funding - then the study of Modern Languages at university would be more appealing and would not be in the decline it's in today.

So - year abroad graduates, current language students, staff and travel enthusiasts: please spread the word about to help get language degrees back on the map!

* Only if you take the whole year abroad. Any less, and that percentage is paid - i.e. half a year: half the fees - check with your study abroad staff for more information.

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