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Pupils urged to study languages

10 October 2018

Callum Davies
Callum Davies, Cardiff City FC

Cardiff and Oxford universities have joined forces to encourage pupils from Wales to study modern languages at the UK’s leading institutions.

The two universities have organised a one-day event to showcase the personal benefits and exciting potential careers available to language graduates.

Evidence points to an unprecedented decline in language learning in schools as the number of students from Wales – and the UK as a whole – studying GCSEs and A-levels in modern languages has diminished over many years.

StatsWales figures show that the number of pupils in Wales sitting French, German and Spanish GCSEs has fallen from 7,867 in 2014 to 5,626 in 2017, while A-levels for the same subjects has seen a drop from 541 in 2014 to 390 in 2017.

Language experts also believe the problem is being compounded by negative attitudes towards other cultures magnified by Brexit.

Creative Multilingualism Day on Saturday 13 October seeks to highlight the benefits of language learning and inspire young people to consider modern languages at A-level and university.

The event, at Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages, supports the Welsh Government’s Seren Network to help high-achieving pupils from Wales to reach their potential and attend top universities.

Year 11 pupils, many starting A-levels next year, will hear from language graduates from both universities who are pursuing inspiring careers.

They include Cardiff University French and Welsh graduate Callum Davies, who puts his degree to good use as player liaison officer for Premier League Cardiff City FC, who have several French-speaking players.

Callum, who went to Treorchy Comprehensive School in the Rhondda, said: “My role is to help the players with any issues so that they can concentrate fully on football.

“Everything I’m doing now is thanks to Cardiff University and the language skills I learned on my degree course."

The event, which includes workshops and taster sessions in languages such as Japanese, involves a host of partners including Seren, Cardiff University, Jesus College, University of Oxford, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Creative Multilingualism research programme, and Routes into Languages Cymru.

Claire Gorrara, Professor of French at Cardiff University and one of the event organisers, said she was concerned by the fall in A-level student numbers, particularly with Brexit looming large.

She said: “Fewer and fewer pupils have been opting to learn modern languages in recent years, above all in the state sector.

“Studying languages is often an indicator of social and economic advantage, with more disadvantaged schools less likely to see buoyant numbers in language classes.

Professor Katrin Kohl, of the University of Oxford, Lead Researcher on the Creative Multilingualism programme, said: “Languages are a remarkably important part of our identity – and they provide many softer skills which are needed in today's global economy, such as understanding of other cultures, communication skills and adaptability.

“We are delighted to be taking part in this event to help not only highlight the career benefits of learning languages, but also to help demonstrate the link between languages and creativity.

“Together with wordsmith and musician RTKAL, we hope to open up pupils’ minds to the idea that languages are more than just practical skills: they can be a tool leading to unexpected opportunities, in the creative industries and beyond.”

Wales Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: “It’s fantastic to hear that Cardiff and Oxford universities have joined forces with the Welsh Government’s Seren Network programme to encourage sixth-form pupils all over Wales to study modern languages.

“It is essential that pupils and learners recognise the importance of modern foreign languages and the significant life and career opportunities they can provide.

“I want our young people to become global citizens, able to speak to people in other languages and to understand and appreciate their own and other cultures.”

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