No gate to the job market

12th May 2000 at 01:00
FOREIGN languages do not help most young people get jobs and making study compulsory in secondary schools is misguided, according to a new study.

Foreign languages should only be compulsory for the first year of secondary school, argues Kevin Williams, senior lecturer at Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin City University.

After that language study should be optional, he believes. In a pamphlet published by the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain he says: "By age 12, after a year's study, a young person is old enough to make a decision based on familiarity about whether she wishes to continue to study a foreign language.

"It is misguided to insist that all young people spend five years studying a subject in which some have no interest or for which theyshow no aptitude."

Foreign languages are best learned intensively over a short period of time by learners with immediate, practical motivation, Dr Williams argues in his Why Teach Foreign Languages in Schools? pamphlet.

The current model with five 40-minute lessons a week for five years does not help students' learning, he claimed.

It would be far more economical only to teach adults who have a need to master a particular language, he says.

"Studying modern foreign languages is not vocationally useful for most English speakers. In any case, the competence acquired in school is generally not of great value in the workplace."

The pamphlet can be obtained from the Institute of Education Bookshop, London University (020-7612-6050, email

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