The class of 2006 is poorly equipped to take on the globalised world, despite of their high grades. Less than five percent take foreign languages. The UK recently came bottom out of 28 countries in language ability, according to a study. Learning of languages widens the mental horizons. The British education system is depriving its citizens of the possibility of all the wonderful and useful things that come with a foreign language. An English only education leaves our children at a linguistic and cultural disadvantage. It leaves our children behind.
Learning a second language at an early age has a positive effect on intellectual growth and enriches and enhances a child’s mental development. It leaves students with more flexibility in thinking. It opens the door to other culture and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries. It increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset. Some research suggests that bilingual children are more creative and better at solving complex problems. Bilinguals outperform verbal and non-verbal tests of intelligence. Researchers from University College London found out that learning a second language “boots” brain power.
It is a well known fact, if somebody refuses to learn someone else’s language; they implicitly reject the other’s culture and their way of life. Schools need to teach children maths and three languages from nursery to A-level. In western European countries, all children are supposed to learn two languages along with the mother tongue at early stages. Younger children are more receptive to foreign languages than older pupils and are able to absorb the rhythms and structures more easily. It is essential that enthusiasm for languages could be nurtured earlier.
The largest ethnic minority groups in British schools are children of Pakistani origin: a community often accused of resisting assimilation and integration. Ann Cryer, the MP for Keighley blamed Imams for not speaking English. She should blame British schooling for not teaching Urdu/Arabic to Pakistani children, thus depriving them of understanding the Sermons in Arabic/Urdu. They are unable to enjoy the beauty of Urdu/Arabic literature and poetry. Imams are not part of the problem rather than the solutions.
There is a proposal to teach Urdu as a compulsory language instead of French and German in British schools. The British Government is urged to remove the requirement in the National Curriculum that children between the ages of 11-14 study at least one European language. The linguistic abilities of large number of Muslim children were being ignored because they had to learn another European language as well as mastering English.
The Government must promote the status of Urdu language instead of languages of European origin. Tim Benson, head of Nelson primary school in Newham said that the “nationalistic curriculum failed to recognize the staggering array of linguistic abilities and competencies” in schools such as his, where the pupils spoke more than 40 languages. The linguistic dexterity of families speaking an array of languages was celebrated but the “awesome achievements” of children mastering three or four languages were barely recognised by the education system. Social and emotional education comes with your own language-literature and poetry.
A DFES document clearly states that children should be encouraged to maintain and develop their home languages. A study shows that bilingualism is a positive benefit to cognitive development and bilingual teacher is a dire necessity and is a role model. The price of ignoring children’s bilingualism is educational failure and social exclusion. Bilingualism could be developed by bringing a partner from Pakistan. The kids will get better at both languages. One will speak English while the other will speak Urdu.
A language is not just a series of words and communications; it’s the product of a culture of people. Language is a product of history and culture. The more we destroy our linguistic diversity by only using English, the more we lose the diversity of our cultural and historical identities. Erasing languages is erasing history. Erasing history leaves people without identity and a sense of identity is what makes us human. Learning languages teach us different ways of thinking, a worthwhile and enlightening mental exercise. Languages keep us apart from animal world. Human diversity is a part of God’s plan of creation. It is something to be encouraged as a social good, not something to be annihilated in a melting pot of national cohesion. If we force the whole world to speak only one language, we are forcing the whole world to lose its own identity and culture. Languages make the world a better place. It helps us to realize that we are all different and hopefully to be more tolerant with our differences.