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How Bilingual Families Can Thrive Amid a Sharp Decline in Language Education

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Shock horror!

According to an article in the Telegraph newspaper, languages could disappear from the UK school curriculum in a decade.

Languages could fall off school curriculum in a decade according to a Telegraph article; raising bilingual children; advantage of being bilingual; benefits of being bilingual
Languages could fall off school curriculum in a decade according to a Telegraph article

But fear not – I want to explain why this can, in fact, present a great opportunity if you’re raising your child to be bilingual, trilingual or multilingual.

Why is language education in decline?

Let me first give you a quick summary of some key findings from the article.

The article begins by explaining why languages could fall off the curriculum in a decade here in the UK, and the reason is simple: because the country will run out of stuff capable of teaching them!

The annual British Council report showed that there has been more than 60% fall in numbers taking GCSE French alone in the last two decades, from 331,000 in 2003 to 131,000 in summer 2023.

According to the article, state schools in England do not have to teach those aged 5 to 7 a language. It only becomes compulsory for children aged 7 to 11 to study a language.

For those unfamiliar with the UK school system, state schools mean government-funded schools, or what you might call public schools in the US.

And living in the UK ourselves, I know for a fact that my children's school, which is a very good state school in our area, does not teach foreign languages until year 3 or 3rd grade in American terminology.

Some Schools Only Offer Language Lessons for 30 Minutes a Week

According to the article, Katherine Vintiner, a private school headteacher, claimed that in practice, many schools are barely able to offer a language even when it becomes compulsory, with some only able to after 30 minutes a week.

There is also a problem in finding suitably qualified language teachers.

30 minutes A WEEK.

That’s a shocking figure!

Does anyone seriously think that a child can learn to speak a language with 30 minutes of classroom learning a week?

Ms Vintiner believes that the key to reversing the trend is to introduce children to speaking and studying modern languages immersively at an earlier age – she said that in her school, pupils speak English and French in the lessons from age 5 and, as a result, are normally fluent by the age of eight or nine.

So, now that I’ve summarised the key findings of this article, what are the main takeaways that I’d like to share with you?

My Initial Reaction

What was my initial reaction when I first read this article?

Alarm, a sense of crisis, but quickly followed by excitement – because straightaway, I saw that this alarming trend presents immense opportunities to families like us, and I knew I had to share my insights with you.

At this point, it’s worth pointing out that this way of thinking about a crisis is, in fact, built into the Chinese word for crisis, weiji, which is made up of two characters: wei means danger or crisis, and ji means opportunities.

The Chinese word for "crisis" is made up of "danger" and "opportunity" - the two always co-exist
The Chinese word for "crisis" is made up of "danger" and "opportunity" - the two always co-exist

Bad News: Why This is a Crisis

So, let’s try to unpack why this might be a crisis.

Firstly, this article confirms that if your child attends a standard state school, you simply cannot assume that they can become fluent in a second language at school.

As a parent, this means that you have to take matters into your own hands and control your child’s language education.

In practical terms, this means that if you want to raise your child to be bilingual/ trilingual/ multilingual, you have two options:

1) consider sending your child to a fully bilingual school from an early age if you don’t want to entirely rely on yourselves;

2) do it yourself or with your partner, possibly also with the help of grandparents, paid help, weekend language schools etc., but if this is the route you take, you have to be very committed, although it’s entirely possible.

So that’s the crisis part.

What about the opportunities? And this is where things get exciting.

Why This Trend Can Bring Opportunities For Bilingual Families

Firstly, if current trends continue, in the UK at least there will be fewer people who are fluent in a second, let alone third or fourth language in 10, 20 years’ time.

But as I’ve discussed before, language skills are increasingly valued by employers.

Check out my video on this topic if you want to find out more, but here’s a quick recap of some key statistics:

  • Numerous recent surveys show that being multilingual can improve one’s earning potential by anything from 3% to as much as 15%. Bilingual and multilingual candidates are also more likely to be hired in the first place.

  • In the US, between 2016 and 2019, the demand for bilingual talent increased by 14%.

  • In 2020, 75% of employers in the U.K. valued foreign language skills, particularly the ability to be bilingual.

These figures clearly suggest that employers are increasingly aware of the value of bilingual employees and are actively seeking out individuals with language skills.

So, what this means is that if you successfully raise your child to be bilingual/ trilingual/ multilingual, your child will automatically have a major advantage when they grow up!

Career Options for Bilingual and Multilingual Individuals

Language skills are useful across so many sectors. Just to give you some examples:

  • Translation and interpreting: being fluent in two more languages equips you with the skills to become a translator or interpreter (which is what I do when I’m not working on this channel!)

  • Teaching and education: as the article suggests, there’ll be a significant shortage of language teachers, so this could be a great career option for bilingual individuals

  • Business and commerce: In today's global economy, many businesses operate internationally. Language skills are highly valued in fields such as international marketing, sales, and negotiation.

  • Tourism and hospitality: the tourism industry is set to continue to grow as the middle class expands globally. Language skills are, needless to say, a huge asset in this sector.

  • Technology and localization: In the tech industry, language skills are essential for roles related to localization, which involves adapting software, websites, and other digital content for different languages and cultures.

Even if your child never ends up applying their language skills to their career directly, being bilingual has so many benefits for the brain that your child will absolutely benefit indirectly from their language skills.

Check out my blog post about some of these amazing brain benefits if you’re interested!

Conclusion: Seize the Opportunities and Thrive

So, to summarise, the bad news coming out of this article is that you cannot rely on your child’s school to teach them a foreign language anymore.

The good news is that if you’re dedicated and committed to raising your child to be bilingual, trilingual or multilingual, you can potentially give your child a huge advantage in the job market 20 years down the line and set them up for success.

The other piece of good news is that you’ve come to the right place – at Multilingual Family Hub, our mission is to empower parents all around the world to raise their children to be fluent in more than one language.

Through this blog and my YouTube channel, I provide a wealth of free resources to help you maximise your child’s language potential. For an all-in-one guide, you can also read my Bilingual and Trilingual Parenting 101 book, which has sold thousands of copies on Amazon and helped as many families just like yours!

Bilingual and Trilingual Parenting 101: A Practical Handbook for Multilingual Families by Ka Yee Meck
Bilingual and Trilingual Parenting 101: A Practical Handbook for Multilingual Families by Ka Yee Meck

My Everyday Life in English and Spanish: An Interactive Bilingual Book Featuring Over 120 Words for Everyday Scenarios - the perfect book for raising bilingual babies and toddlers
My Everyday Life in English and Spanish: An Interactive Bilingual Book Featuring Over 120 Words for Everyday Scenarios

The books are perfect for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers and are now available in many language combinations, including English and Chinese, English and Japanese, English and Spanish, English and Russian, and very soon German as well.

So, what are your thoughts on this trend? Share your thoughts in the comments below!















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