Did the British learn English or not?
Great BritainFewer and fewer young Britons are learning a foreign language
"What do you want to do on the weekend? Well, I have a lot to do, but for example ..."
"I really like gloves, but it literally means gloves, and I think that’s really a fun word. I really like the word for squirrel, which is squirrel ..."
These two high school graduates from London, Alice and Joslyn, are now a rare species: They have German as their Abitur subject.
The fact that German school-leaving certificates are rarely held has to do with the fact that the number of students who take it up to secondary school leaving certificate, the GCSE, has decreased by 20 percent since 2013. French is also falling sharply.
"There are 250 people in my class and I was the only one who chose German for the Abitur. I was just able to do it that way, but now it is no longer offered as an Abitur subject."
Complete deletion in many secondary schools
The BBC has analyzed statistics that show that a third of secondary schools in the UK have completely eliminated a foreign language. Conservative Nick Gibb, State Secretary in the Ministry of Education, puts the blame on the previous government, even though he has been in office for many years.
"But the Labor government decided in 2004 that foreign languages are no longer compulsory in the national curriculum until the age of 16."
Since 2010, says Gibb, his government has been countering it. Since then, the government has been rewarding schools with good ratings that ensure that as many students as possible achieve good grades in English, math, two natural sciences, history and at least one foreign language. But has that caused a trend reversal?
More like Spanish and Chinese instead of German and French
Only partially. Interest in German and French is continuing to decline, but more students are taking Spanish and Chinese, says Maggie Bailey, headmistress of a popular secondary school in the affluent west of London that has been rated “outstanding”. The students did not want to spoil the average grade - and the evaluation of the schools also depends on the average grade of their students.
"Many think Spanish is easier. Because, like English, French and German are grammatically more difficult. I think that is why some students find it easier."
The fact that Chinese, German and French are also overtaking them, is because both the British and Chinese governments are promoting Chinese teaching.
There is a lack of language teachers
Headmistress Maggie Bailey: "There is the Confucius Classroom, where the school gets 50,000 pounds if it provides a room in which all sorts of things related to China are regularly taught."
And the British government is putting money on top of that, says Education Secretary Nick Gibb.
"We support learning Chinese with a Mandarin Excellence Program. We have been supporting 5,000 young people who learn Chinese in school from the start with ten million pounds for the past three years."
It depends very much on the government, believes Maggie Bailey, whether students learn foreign languages - and which ones.
"Schools often move in the direction that the government says. If they say: This is now mandatory, then schools offer this, if the government says: It is not that important, then they do not offer so much."
In addition, many schools lacked foreign language teachers.
Universities should exert more pressure
"Yes, especially in some regions. We're lucky, here in London we live close to the continent, we get the teachers. In the poorer regions, schools have a harder time finding teachers."
Headmistress Bailey thinks universities could also put more pressure on students to choose foreign languages when they graduate from high school.
"When it comes to the admissions process, universities should make sure that the young people have studied at least one foreign language up to secondary school, that should be a criterion. That would help."
The fact is: The United Kingdom is apparently not only saying goodbye to the continent politically and economically, but also linguistically - at least from the two European countries, France and Germany, which are regionally and economically closest to it.
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