A recent news item, The Telegraph’s “Graduate jobs: Best languages to study”, ranks German, French and Spanish as the most useful languages to learn in order to improve you chances of professional success. Interesting reading, but perhaps even more interesting are the questions which are raised by any discussions of this list:
1) The information on which the list is based comes from a survey conducted in the UK, which means that proficiency in English (being a native English speaker?) as well as one of these ‘foreign’ langauges is what they are actually talking about. Given that, for example, Germans now consitute the fourth largest foreign-born group in the UK, it seems logical to ask whether their job chances are higher than British monoglots (presuming, of course, that they have acquired English to a native-like level). And if so, how do various groups of people feel about this? I, for one, would love to think that the English skills I’m teaching my students mean they have a higher chance of professional success on the international market. On the other hand, though, that might mean that my own friends and family within the UK could lose out on the job front to the bilingual Germans I’m ‘sending over’ to Britain. Opinions on a postcard please! (By “postcard”, I mean, leave your comment below, thank you!)
2) The justification for German being ranked as the ‘best language to study’ includes the comment that Germany, as “Europe’s largest economy – with a GDP of more than €2.4 trillion – continues to defy the eurozone downturn.” Now this is a point unrelated to language teaching/learning, but my first thought is – “really?” For those of us living in Germany, it doesn’t particularly feel like the economy is here continuing to “defy the eurozone turndown”. Cue irrate political discussion. Opinions on a postcard please!
3) It’s all well and good being told which languages might be helpful to learn, but in my experience it’s rather difficult to convince many Brits to learn any foreign language at all! I wonder whether this little article will be able to change this wide-spread lack of enthusiasm? Opinions on a postcard please!
4) One of the comments on the article also offers plenty of discussion material, stating firstly that “Learning any European language is a waste of time since nearly all European businessmen speak English” (is the only benefit of learning a foreign language being able to communicate with European businessmen?!), and then that “nearly all European businessmen speak English, some even better than English people themselves” (My reactions: “ouch!” and “really?”). Ooh err, very contraversial! Opinions on a postcard, please!
Despite the potential for debate here, it seems the article is presenting good news for any L1 English EFL teachers living and working abroad who acquire communicative compentence in a foreign langauge! Not only would we (apparently) have a better chance of getting a job back in the UK, should we (ever want to) return, but as the comment about Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt shows, having lived and worked (as a teacher) bestows upon us other transferable skills that can lead into very diverse professions. Though whether many EFL teachers want to get into politics is probably debatable!
The news item: “Graduate jobs: Best languages to study”, The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group Limited, n.d., http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/9487434/Graduate-jobs-Best-languages-to-study.html?frame=2314799, accessed 27.04.2013