There's no competition for language graduates

Language degrees at university

By Nicole Correia,

Spanish students may understand the concept of “una fuga de cerebros” - a leakage of brains - meaning that students from Spanish speaking countries (or indeed other European nations) become educated and then due to the lack of jobs in their country of origin, move to other countries in seek of employment to match their abilities. The expression is often used when complaining about the economy or education standards, when in reality it should be used as praise for their national students. Young educated people should be praised and set as an example.

The Guardian recently published an article that denounced the lack of language graduates, and the struggle Britain’s student’s face - up against the fuga de cerebros of our neighbouring nations for employment. As a humanities student of English Literature and French myself, I always find these articles a little disappointing; they offer no resolve. Whilst the lack of language graduates is disheartening, I can understand it: I study French because I enjoy it and because I respect the culture and the beauty of the language. Romantic, yes, and perhaps naïve in today’s economic climate, but if I were studying to solely make money in the future I would not be a humanities student. If being bilingual earns me a bit more money then so be it, but that is not the reason I am learning the language. British students need more than a foreign language to earn them money - the world is learning English.

Whilst the disintegrating statistics of language students is heart-breaking, I wish there were more done about it. Learning a language is a love/hate situation for many, and learning a language takes time and dedication. You have to be ready to get things wrong every time you try. It is unlike many other degrees in this sense, as you need to understand that language develops and has more added to it daily - it is an on-going study and very difficult to perfect. For this reason it is fantastic that primary schools are introducing a second language into the syllabus. More British children will grow up learning a language and developing tolerance and interest as they can grow up with the language, too, as it changes. Our neighbouring European countries have been doing this for decades. It is no surprise that business men and women in France, Portugal and Italy can all speak English; they have studied it since they were four. Today’s students are thus competing with our European neighbours who have years more practice of making perfect.

I agree, English isn’t enough; learning a foreign language in business shows respect, and may even lead to better relations. The European graduates have more than their English language skills to offer, and that is what we are competing with as students; we all need the extra edge, to shave away the competition. I also agree with David Willett’s article that we shouldn’t forget humanities subjects in the race for scientific discovery, but I can understand why it is happening. More often than not young people are motivated by money and learning a language doesn’t earn money unless you have something more. All-in-all, if the governments of European countries want to prevent the fuga de cerebros and the British government really are concerned by the language statistics, then they should habla juntos, parlez ensemble, samen spreken, parlare insieme and communicate as someone has to do something to encourage young people.