Did you know?

Did you know that the United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 to be an International Year of Languages? No? I thought not. Apparently UNESCO will be co-ordinating the projects for the year. Has anyone noticed anything actually happening yet? No, me neither. (Please tell me if I’m wrong here, maybe lots of exciting language projects are going on that I don’t know about.)

In the UK we are somewhat infamous for our monolingualism. This is perhaps unfair: there are plenty of people out there having a go, speaking at least some basic language when on holiday; but the fact remains that, according to the Eurobarometer report, 62% of us in the UK do not speak any language other than our mother tongue well enough to have a conversation. Only Ireland (66%) and Turkey (67%) do worse.

It seems that the stereotypical image of the “Brit Abroad”, going on holiday and speaking English loudly and slowly (because obviously non-English speakers will understand what is said if it is loud and slow enough) might not be so far fetched after all.

An International Year of Languages could be a real inspiration, a chance to encourage children and adults alike to learn languages, a chance to put on exciting events. Sadly, if the first two months are anything to go by, the International Year of Languages might just slip by unnoticed.

3 comments to Did you know?

  • Don

    FYI, I posted a link to this entry on a list of blogs that mention the International Year of Languages.

    Your question actually goes to the heart of why I set up this small wiki on the Year at the end of December. I could see that we’d easily get to the end of the Year without much more than a few ceremonies and a report that it was a great success. Not that my humble effort will generate much but I had to do something.

    One thing to note, though, is that the Year “officially” started on Feb. 21 and will go to next Feb. 21 (which doesn’t change the main issue, but gives us a tad more time). I would also note, having looked at a fair number of blogs and news, that there are a fair number of small local level events and efforts in various parts of the world. UNESCO’s pages on the Year (you can access them from the wiki) include a form for submitting project info, and a list of these projects.

    UNESCO’s role though, is largely formal. The real success of the Year will be what various national, local, educational, etc. initiatives make of it. So the outcome is not assured.

  • Now I’ve read your comments and browsed around on your wiki, I’m beginning to think I ought be doing something at my own school.

    All I need now is a great idea…

  • I wonder how much that 176 page EU report cost us, the Eurotaxpayer?

    The biggest dis-incentive to learning new languages as an adult is the ‘government”s complete contempt for all adult education (demonstrated in the now negligible budget for any education post-18 ).

    A huge opportunity was missed back in 1988 when the NC was introduced. A MFL could have been put into KS2 (or even KS1).