The Linguist

The Linguist 54,2

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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government, as the majority of private funding is for specific-focus projects rather than what our speaker, Dr Elisabeth Kendall of Oxford University, called the 'meat and potatoes' of increasing our cohort of Arabic speakers in the education system. The APPG has expressed its concern that there is no cross-Whitehall strategy for languages to address these issues. Such a strategy could also include a language audit of civil servants, which would be useful in times of international crisis and also in key domestic affairs, such as health, prisons and the courts. The APPG will be pushing for action on these questions both before and after the general election. The APPG will be re-formed following the general election on 7 May. Email for details. The All-Party Group has been focusing on the UK's diplomatic capacity, reports Philip Harding-Esch Inside Parliament Y ou may have read the recent headlines following the publication of the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee report on EU-Russia relations (for example The Guardian's 'UK Guilty of "Catastrophic Misreading" of Ukraine Crisis, Lords Report Claims'). The report is certainly worth reading. Baroness Coussins, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages, is a member of this sub-committee and has ensured that the APPG looks at some of these issues, including languages in UK government, the UK's soft power, and (most recently) the UK's strategic need for lesser taught languages. The report quotes Sir Tony Brenton, former Ambassador to Russia, saying that he 'believed that UK diplomacy was "pretty good" but that it had "suffered because of a loss of language skills"'. The FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has presented to the APPG twice in the last year and the picture is complex. Despite cuts in funding, the UK diplomatic service emerges as very 6 The Linguist Vol/54 No/2 2015 NEWS & EDITORIAL able, linguistically and otherwise, compared to some other diplomatic services. There are impressive examples of language training, support for 'speaker slots' (roles where speaking the other language is deemed necessary), and the opening of the FCO's new Language Centre. February 2015 saw the launch of the Diplomatic Academy, professionalising the diplomatic service, and Languages is one of 11 faculties. But there is more that could be done to ensure that the UK is ready to deal with the world in all the necessary languages. An eye-opening case in point is Arabic, which is typically taught at university from scratch over three years. This is clearly not enough, especially as there are several 'Arabics', appropriate to different countries and contexts. It is impossible for a graduate to be competent in all of these, so there is a need for more to be done in our schools and to capitalise on young people who already speak Arabic at home. This would require a strategy, and probably funding, from central Philip Harding-Esch works on behalf of the British Council to support the APPG. TL TRAINING AGENDA William Hague opens the Foreign Office's Language Centre in September 2013 (left); and a video message from the UN Secretary- General, Ban Ki-moon, at the opening of the Diplomatic Academy on 10 February 2015 IMAGES: FCO VIA FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

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