Disappointing statistics show that just 32 per cent of UK 15-30 year olds feel confident reading and writing in two or more languages, compared to 79 per cent in France, 91 per cent in Germany, and an average 80 per cent across EU states. 

Joan Didion said: “The ability to think for one's self depends upon one's mastery of the language”.

I would venture to add that, the ability to understand our fellow man depends upon this mastery too. There exists a running joke, half arrogant, half self-deprecating (sometimes both), that the English don’t bother to “speak the lingo”, when they visit, or even move to another country. Increasingly, I’m failing to see what's so funny.

The ability to express oneself, to connect, to understand others is a great privilege. This is made evident by the profound frustration felt by people with limited means of communication, such as people who are non-verbal, and their equally profound joy when people make alternative efforts to communicate with them.

I believe that language learning in UK schools is an issue. A great deal of my peers felt, at best discouraged and at worst humiliated, by their experience with the MFL curriculum at secondary school, believing that they aren’t clever enough, or aren’t wired correctly for language learning. If this is the case, and language learning is so very challenging, how is this large 80% of 15-30 year olds in EU member states managing it? It begs the question, is it the student that’s the problem or a far broader, systemic, cultural issue? More importantly, why don’t we care?

Language learning promotes cultural sensitivity, analytical skills and ultimately allows us to reach a greater level of mutual understanding and connection. To be without it is an immense barrier to one’s understanding of the world.

No man is an island, even if England is.

There are a plethora of language schools in Hampshire, get involved today.

  • This article was written by  Francesca Hartley, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter Scheme.