The Linguist

The Linguist 58,2-June/July 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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26 The Linguist Vol/58 No/2 2019 FEATURES What impact is the vote having on language learning, asks Teresa Tinsley Brexit poses a number of risks to the already fragile position of language learning in the UK. Will a climate of xenophobia spill over into attitudes towards languages in schools? Will pupils be less motivated to learn the languages of our European neighbours? Will job opportunities and the demand for speakers of European languages be diminished? What will happen to the supply of language teachers from the EU27? Will those currently in post return to their home countries? How will new immigration rules affect those who want to come here to train? And will the UK be able to retain access to EU programmes such as Erasmus+, which funds school links and exchanges, CPD for language teachers, and a myriad of schemes which bring young people into productive contact with European languages and cultures? As with everything to do with Brexit, there are many questions still to be answered and nothing is yet certain. But we do have a picture of what is already happening in schools. In the 2018 Language Trends survey for England, we asked secondary language teachers if the Brexit process was having any impact – positive or negative – on language teaching and learning in their schools. Just over a third (34%) of state secondary schools in England reported that leaving the EU was having a negative impact on language learning, through student motivation and/or through parental attitudes towards the subject. Teachers in these schools commented that pupils or parents were more likely to question the value of learning a language, with one commenting that "Brexit is often touted as a reason not to do a language". The impact has been mixed in 28% of schools in terms of pupil motivation and in 34% in terms of parental attitudes, suggesting that the social and cultural divide exposed by the Brexit vote is also present within schools. Those reporting a negative shift in attitudes were statistically more likely to have lower attainment, higher numbers of pupils eligible for free school meals and smaller numbers of pupils with English as an additional language. These findings were repeated in Wales, with 37% of schools in the Language Trends Wales 2018 survey reporting a negative shift in attitudes on the part of pupils or parents. The prospects for recruitment and retention of teachers also emerged as a key concern, particularly in England. There was evidence that teachers were preparing to leave and, in some cases, had already done so: "We have several EU teachers here (just not in the languages department) and we have already seen a great teacher leave because of Brexit." On a more positive note, 10% of respondents in England reported that senior management had become more positive towards language study as a result of Brexit. "We are determined to maintain both language teaching and our foreign exchange, after Brexit. It is more important than ever, for intercultural understanding and also for employment prospects for our pupils." If there is one certainty in all the confusion surrounding the Brexit process, it is that British society is divided. We can see these differences reflected in the responses of schools. Whereas some have seen little impact on attitudes, and even a stiffening of resolve to impart an internationalist ethos, others have reported an increase in negativity and insularity. It seems more urgent than ever that a national programme of renewal be established for language learning based on the principle of 'languages for all'. For the full reports see and Data reproduced by kind permission of the British Council. Brexit attitudes Teresa Tinsley, Alcantara Communications. @Teresa Tinsley TL SURVEY RESULTS SCHOOL LINKS OVERSEAS PARTICIPATION IN INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS ATTITUDES OF SENIOR MANAGEMENT TOWARDS LANGUAGE LEARNING PARENTAL ATTITUDES TOWARDS LANGUAGE LEARNING PROSPECTS FOR FUTURE TEACHER RECRUITMENT/RETAINMENT RETENTION OF LANGUAGE TEACHERS WHO ARE EU27 CITIZENS RECRUITMENT OF LANGUAGE TEACHERS FROM ABROAD PROSPECTS OF FUTURE INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT PUPIL MOTIVATION TO STUDY LANGUAGES 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% NEGATIVE IMPACT POSITIVE IMPACT © SHUTTERSTOCK

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