Matt’s View: poor education leaves business owners speaking the wrong language

Families enjoy the ice rink at Royston Christmas Fayre Families enjoy the ice rink at Royston Christmas Fayre

Saturday, December 14, 2013
3:02 PM

How many languages do you speak?

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If you’re like a lot of folk in this country, then the answer is probably somewhere between one and two; most people I know have mastered English, and remember a few words of either French or German that they learned in school.

In Europe it’s common for people to be able to speak two or three additional languages, and a report released this week suggests a lack of linguistic skill is holding small businesses in this country back.

Research, carried out by Professor James Foreman-Peck on behalf of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and published this week, found that deficient language skills and an assumption that “everyone speaks English” is costing the UK economy a hefty £48billion a year.

It’s not clear how Professor Foreman-Peck came up with this massive figure, but I’m sure it’s out there on the internet somewhere if you’re interested in finding out. Even if his calculations are a bit on the excessive side, it’s obvious we’re at a disadvantage if we can’t communicate fully with other countries

The fact that English is so widely spoken around the world probably makes us lazy as a nation, but I also think the teaching of foreign languages in schools needs a bit of a shake-up. If your experience of school was anything like mine, then you probably spent five years learning how to ask where the camp-site is, or how to buy a return ticket to Lyon, but very little time mastering anything that might be useful in a conversation.

Currently I’m trying to learn French, but the task is proving to be very difficult because my sluggish adult brain is struggling to retain the many, often nonsensical, rules of French grammar, stuff which I’m sure would have been much easier to grasp had I been taught it as a child.

Until a broader, more practical, language curriculum is taught in schools, I don’t see the situation changing any time soon.

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It was a good weekend in Royston, with hundreds of people descending on the town for the Christmas Fayre.

The consensus of opinion seems to be that the event was a great success, particularly the addition of the ice rink, and credit should go to Royston Means Business and the other organisers.

My experience is that people in Royston have a tendency to get a bit down about the town and it’s future, but events like this show what you can achieve with a bit of imagination, energy and hard-work.

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