Foreign language education has not been high on Britain’s agenda in the past, but that may be changing due to a partnership between The Guardian and the British Academy.
The two institutions have come together to create an award for a Public Language Champion in order to raise awareness. Last year gave, the collaboration awarded the title to football manager Arsène Wenger, as The Guardian reports.
The British Academy has decided to put an end to British society's lack of emphasis on the importance of learning foreign languages. They've introduced an award for commitment and passion in language education shown by a public figure.
For the award's inaugural year, Arsène Wenger was named Guardian Public Language Champion 2013. The Guardian also runs the language learning series in support of a national debate around language education.
Public Language Champion 2014
Voting is now open for the 2014 Language Champion. A nominee, to be eligible for the award, must be a public figure and spearhead language education in Britain.
Some of last year’s runners-up might be in with a chance again this year: Eddie Izzard, Larry Lamb, Zeinab Badawi, and Ellen MacArthur were all on the shortlist last year. But with the vote down to a 50/50 split between the public and a panel of judges, it remains to be seen who will take this year’s language crown.
Wendy Berliner is the head of professional networks at The Guardian. She explains the significance of the award: "This award is a key part of a two-year commitment with the British Academy to raising public dialogue over language learning. There were five very worthy people in our short list, which was opened to a public vote, and it is wonderful to see the work of the multilingual Arsène Wenger and the Arsenal Double Club [its innovative language-teaching programme] recognised in this way."
Wenger’s career as a footballer and then as a coach and manager has taken him all over the world, requiring him to learn many new languages along the way: he speaks English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and learnt a little Japanese while in Japan coaching Nagoya Grampus Eight.
He has been nicknamed Le Professeur by football fans and the press due to his serious, studious demeanour during games.
"Being voted Britain's first ever public language champion is an incredible honour," he shared. "I am very proud that Arsenal and I can help raise the profile of language learning in schools."
What’s the Appeal of Learning a New Language?
It’s easier to learn a new language when you are young, and it may also help to develop thinking abilities: speakers of more than one language have been shown to perform better in many aspects of cognition, according to The Telegraph.
There are far reaching and immeasurable benefits too. Business dealings with foreign companies go more smoothly with the aid of fluency in the local language. British expats in countries around the world have garnered poor reputations in their foreign lands for several reasons, not least of which are their poor language skills. Willingness to learn the local lingo can increase rapport and make friends of the natives.
As more migration occurs, the increasingly cosmopolitan urban areas around the world bring with them a need for better communication. Not everyone can speak English or the local language in their destination country. Having a higher portion of a population that is able to converse with foreigners will only impact society positively.
Why not make an informed decision and test your language skills with one of Listen & Learn’s many different Language Level Tests?