Talk the multilingual talk

Adding an optional language component to the first five 14-19 diplomas - in health, information technology, construction, engineering and media - could help to reverse students' perception that languages are irrelevant in the workplace, campaigners believe, and reverse the steep drop in studying languages after 14.

Teresa Tinsley, the assistant director at Cilt, the national centre for languages, said: "We are trying to challenge the idea that languages are in opposition to vocational skills.

"Languages are not just for professionals and highflyers. It's very often the people who are in the frontline of dealing with the public who need languages, more than those in the boardroom. For example, a mechanic may start off in a local garage under the arches but could work on Formula 1 cars all over the world."

She said vacancies advertised on one website that specialises in language jobs showed demand for multilingual workers was highest in customer services, covering call centres, credit control and helpdesks.

Cilt has produced posters which explain how languages could be used in the first five diplomas, to be introduced in select areas in 2008. They cite the example of health care, which requires hospital translators.

The 14-19 diplomas, which are still in draft form, will include compulsory and optional modules. One of the later diplomas, to be introduced in 2010, is expected to include a compulsory language element, says Lord Dearing, who carried out the Government's review of language teaching.

The number of pupils studying languages after the age of 14 has plummeted to 51 per cent since the Government made it optional in 2004, but the number of five A* to C GCSE passes has barely changed, indicating the students most likely to drop language are those who would have found GCSE hard.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you