Importance of Portuguese Language
Portuguese is not just spoken in Portugal, but in Brazil and several African nations including Mozambique and Angola. It’s also one of ten languages identified as most important for the UK’s future by the British Council’s Languages for the Future report.
Languages are the bedrock of the world’s cultural heritage. Every language offers a rich and unique insight into different ways of thinking and living as well as into the history of the myriad of cultures and peoples across the globe.
A survey commissioned by the British Council suggests that three quarters of the UK public are unable to speak any of ten most important languages for the UK’s future well enough to hold a conversation.
These findings suggest not that people in the UK are learning the wrong languages, but the UK needs to develop its citizens’ competence in a wider range of languages, and in far greater numbers, in order to reap the economic and cultural benefits available to those who have these skills.
The conclusion of this analysis is that the UK must take a strategic approach in planning for effective development of the language capacity which this country needs.
There is no denying the importance of English as a common means of communication across the world, or its strength as the first foreign language of choice for most non-Anglophone countries.
But David Graddol’s 2006 analysis of global language trends was a timely warning against complacency regarding the predominance of English worldwide. He predicted that the competitive advantage of English will ebb and that monolingual English speakers, unable to tap into the multilingual environments enjoyed by others, would face a bleak economic future.
Studies for the European Commission have shown that the economic benefits of competence in more than one language are not limited to English. A wide range of languages are needed to exploit the benefits of the single market and keep improving trade between peoples worldwide. Even when others have a high level of proficiency in English, this does not mean that their languages can be ignored.
In order to develop relations between countries and individuals based on mutual respect and trust as well as to do business effectively, there is a need for an understanding of the social, political, and technical systems of a country, as well as the innumerable aspects of daily life that are important to that nation’s identity and culture.
Of course people learn languages for more than purely instrumental purposes, but learners do want to be able to use the languages they have learned, and taxpayers and governments want to see their education resources spent in a way that will provide the greatest possible long-term benefits. It is important, therefore, to attempt to address the difficult question of which languages are likely to provide the best outcomes, and to identify criteria by which we may be able to judge the potential value of one over another in terms of the UK’s future economic prosperity and security.
But which languages does the UK most need?
Unlike their peers in many countries of the world, people in English-speaking nations do not have one obvious language which everyone should learn. Traditionally our schools and universities have taught French and German, but these are the languages that have suffered most from recent declines.
The number of people studying Spanish has increased steadily – to the extent that it has now overtaken German as the UK’s second most popular language to learn. But is this what the UK needs, given the strength of the German economy, its status as the UK’s number one trading partner and known employer demand for German in the UK?
Indeed, should the UK be looking at European languages at all, or instead be putting its energies into developing competence in major global languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Arabic? And what about Russian and Japanese, heralded some years ago as upcoming languages, but stubbornly resistant to significant growth within our education systems? In terms of numbers of first language speakers, Mandarin Chinese is easily the most predominant language in the world today, and collectively, all Chinese languages total 1,197 million native speakers.
Many of the languages in Chart also have very large numbers of second language speakers. It would be easy to conclude that we should align our language learning efforts accordingly, but does this reflect the true balance of the UK’s future needs?
Read the full report in here.