On 26 September, it is European Day of Languages (Resources, 16 September). However, while pupils in other European countries learn two new languages, language learning in the UK is in serious decline.
While we find it difficult to motivate pupils to study French and German, young people in east London are campaigning to make qualifications available in a wider range of languages. They speak community languages such as Somali or Albanian as well as English, and are keen to study these languages and use them in their future careers. Four recent studies funded by the Economic and Social Research Council show how pupils gain the cognitive, linguistic and social advantages of bilingualism.
We urge the coalition Government to engage in constructive dialogue with young people and their communities and make qualifications available in a wider range of languages. The UK's unique language resources could then benefit the country's economy, particularly in a global trading context. We need to celebrate the linguistic talent of all our citizens.
Dr Raymonde Sneddon, University of East London, Dr Charmian Kenner, Goldsmiths, University of London and 21 other signatories.