Language skills warning

13th July 2007 at 01:00
MODERN LANGUAGES teachers have warned that funding for a number of initiatives is being withdrawn, or scaled down, putting young Scots at a disadvantagIt was fun and games as well as work, when fifth-year pupils from all over Scotland attended a summer school at St Andrews University. Places on the course had to be increased to meet demand from youngsters who may not have a family history of attending university. Full story next week. Photograph: Alistair Linford

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in the jobs market.

Members of the Scottish Association for Language Teaching (SALT) have joined other organisations in calling on the Scottish Executive to give greater funding and prominence to the teaching of traditional European and minority community languages.

Many of the respondents to the executive's proposed A Strategy for Scotland's Languages argued that Scots are already being disadvantaged, at home and abroad, because of poor language skills compared with other nations.

SALT argues: "In many cases, funding has been or is about to be withdrawn and has therefore been of a transient nature. We would argue that the strategy must, contrary to what is stated, include a framework for resource allocations as well as output targets in order to be meaningful."

While the executive argues that there are "a range of contexts in which language acquisition is promoted in Scotland", the association disagrees, saying: "Some of these promotions are no longer in existence or are on the verge of disappearing."

It goes on: "A number of the initiatives described under the heading of 'language learning' have been discontinued, are being scaled down, or are even being phased out."

A number of respondents to the consultation are pressing the executive to fulfil the aims of the Barcelona Agreement (to which the UK is a signatory) and make its citizens proficient in three languages their mother tongue and two additional languages.

Language Network Scotland suggests that one in five companies may be losing export orders, either through inadequate language skills or because of a failure to understand cultural differences in targeted export countries.

"As the nation is forced ever further into the global market place, our young people are doubly disadvantaged," the network states.

"They have to compete at home with mobile youngsters from abroad who have far better language skills and all the business skills needed in today's jobs market. Monolingual Scots cannot take their skills abroad, as they do not have the language base to do so."

The network points to the example of IBM in Greenock, which employs 1,500 staff who require foreign language skills, but can only recruit 50 of those from within Scotland.

Further report, page 3

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