Talking point

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
Should teenagers be forced to study languages? Adi Bloom asked influential figures in business.

Ruth Lea, head of policy unit, Institute of Directors:

"As a nation we are extraordinarily lazy about learning languages. We're not as bad as the Americans, but there's an assumption that if you shout loud enough, people will understand. But how can you understand anything about a foreign country if you don't speak even a bit of the language? It's crucial, crucial, crucial."

Tessa Keswick, director, Centre for Policy Studies: "You can go anywhere in the world now, and if people don't speak English, they will be trying to learn. It will become the lingua franca, as it already is in business. But our students should still learn a language, it gives you another dimension in your life."

Digby Jones, director-general, Confederation of British Industry:

"A growing proportion of the world's population speaks Chinese, Arabic or Spanish. A language adds to an individual's employability. Without these skills, British young people may be less able to compete in global organisations or companies."

Isabella Moore, national president, British Chambers of Commerce: "I'd like languages to be compulsory right through school. Recruiting language teachers has to be a priority for the Government. In business, it's vital to understand the culture of your target market."

Ian Mullen, chief executive, British Bankers' Association:

"Foreign-language skills are key for financial services. Eighty per cent of regulations governing the UK financial industry originate from Brussels. A third of the world's foreign exchange takes place in London. We need a workforce with expanding language skills."

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