Sheffield: city of linguists

SHEFFIELD is planning Britain's first city language policy which will unite schools, universities, businesses and the community, writes Clare Dean.

Many three-year-olds in the city, which includes Education Secretary David Blunkett's constituency, learn French, Spanish and German at nursery.

And Sheffield Age Concern runs a basic Spanish course - the oldest pupil is 73-years-old.

Some 62 languages are spoken in the city, now officially classified one of the poorest regions in Europe, and around 5 per cent of young people speak one or more of them in addition to English.

"We want to put languages and language learning centre stage," said Danielle Stone, co-ordinator of the Multilingual City project.

"This will allow our citizens to playa full role in Europe and the world at work, play and study."

Examples of what the policy could achieve range from primary schools developing additional languages to business action plans taking language learning into work-related training.

The city council may look at best practice internationally while its young children's service could introduce new languages in nurseries, family centres, at home with parents or with childminders.

The policy comes just two months after the Nuffield Language Inquiry issued its final report saying that English was no longer enough because the world's economy was shifting.

The two-year inquiry said the responsibility for change rested not just with education but also with the business community.

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