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What is the value of languages to the UK?

  • Language contributes to UK prosperity: languages are a ‘value-added’ skill
  • Language learning forms part of ‘cultural agility’ from knowing other languages and cultures
  • Languages provide value-added skills across a range of occupations
  • There is increasing understanding of the personal and societal benefits of bilingualism
  • Recognized importance of ‘soft power’ and language skills in conflict areas

What concerns are there now?

  • Business lost to UK companies through lack of language skills
  • Gaps in detecting incidence and spread of disease outbreaks and other health and security threats
  • Loss of language departments and degree courses in UK higher education
  • Lack of native English speakers in translating and interpreting departments of EU and UN
  • Inadequate language services in courts and healthcare 

The role and contribution of language to the UK economy and society is both rich and varied.  It stretches from enabling economic growth and prosperity through the language and communication skills required to enable UK business to participate in the global market place; to the ‘soft power’ and diplomatic skills through which the UK’s role and authority in foreign policy is manifested; to enhancing the cultural capital, educational attainment and social cohesion within England and the devolved communities of the UK both now and in the future.This report draws on discussions held at a workshop in Cambridge to discuss strategic issues in which languages play a part: national security, diplomacy and conflict resolution, community and social cohesion, migration and identity.

Representatives from government departments and bodies included: Ministry of Defence, UK Trade and Investment, Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure Northern Ireland, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ofsted. 

Read the 'The value of Languages' report here. (PDF)

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