The Government has stepped in and taken action on a proposal coming from exam boards in an attempt to continue community languages such as Arabic, Japanese and Hebrew being taught to GCSE level. The AQA exam board have mentioned plans to withdraw several courses from the start of 2017, which could mean less popular subjects such as community languages get ostracised into history.
Recent data from the Rosetta Project shows that approximately once every two weeks a language dies. This would mean the extinction of almost 90% of the world’s languages before the end of the decade.
It may be easy for native speakers of English to dismiss second language acquisition because damningly as a whole, we tend to expect the rest of the world to speak or understand at least a little of the self proclaimed ‘international language’. But the supplementary benefits of learning another language often go unnoticed or unappreciated by exam boards.
The delayed effects of Alzeimer’s disease is enough to make people want to learn another language, but it doesn’t benefit exam boards in the slightest, so why would they continue making exams for them?
There is however a reasonable, if slightly feral basis for this argument. We use mainly our creative faculties for learning language, and mainly just our logical faculties for system based studies such as maths. Unfortunately, various fMRI studies have shown that stimulation of one begets the diminishing of the other. So if we were to acquire a second language, our logical faculties would in turn diminish, by this logic.
This all becomes a little insignificant when you consider that countries which focus on maths as the locus of student development are the countries that suffer most from teenage depression, like South Korea. Even if they do churn out the world’s best results in maths, they are taking away a child’s childhood.
The Education secretary may not have noticed quite how immediate the danger is for losing all foreign tongues judging by her keynote speech, but the action they have taken will ensure the survival of a key part of our multicultural society for another three years at least.