Internet English is undermining language learning says Adie

TeleVision, pop music and the internet are turning teenagers off learning foreign languages, journalist Kate Adie has suggested.

With all three available in English, youngsters think “why bother?”, she warned.

Ms Adie is due to address the Prince’s Teaching Institute summer school next week. The school, which encourages teachers to rediscover their love of their subject, will focus on modern languages.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speaking ahead of the conference, Ms Adie insisted the mastery of at least one other language is “invaluable in more ways than one”. She said that it was a “huge shame” that demand for foreign languages had dropped off in schools.

“What you do have is the influence, when you look at them, in the last decade, the influence of both the internet and pop music – and TV.

“When you can get these three in your own language, to a great extent young people might be quite reasonable to ask, ‘Why bother with another one?’

Ms Adie, a BBC journalist who speaks French and German and took Scandinavian studies at university, said the knowledge of how people use language, and that different cultures use language in different ways, is important.

Youngsters who can go into another country and speak the language are at an advantage, she said. “Walking into another country and being able to speak the language will, at the start, give you an advantage.”

“They are marked out as someone who has taken the trouble to speak the language,” she added.

Ms Adie suggests that more people will need to speak languages such as Chinese and Arabic in future.

“One of the great misnomers is that English is the most-spoken language. In the future, there is no doubt about it, that languages like Chinese will be heard all over the world.”

Schools should continue to encourage pupils to take foreign languages, Ms Adie said.