Since 2004, when the United Kingdom’s labour government made the study of foreign languages in secondary schools voluntary, there has been a dramatic decline in the interest of young people in the UK to study a second language.
For example, in the last ten years the number of students taking up French and German in their GCSE exams has fallen by 50%.
In August 2010, former British liberal democrat MP Mark Oaten caused a scandal when he told Sky News that: “The international language of business is English. Learning German is pointless. I’d much rather my child was learning something of real value and use than learning German. It’s not going to get them a job.”
Yet in a 21st century UK, the reality is that more young people than ever are questioning why they should learn a second language at all.
The current status of the English language ruling as a lingua franca that is being adopted on a global scale helps the country’s tradition of only speaking English. But it is only a matter of time before another language takes over the role of an international one.
According to language council research, 68% of all Japanese students study the German language. In Japan, which is the second-most powerful economy in the world, young people understand the business advantages that knowledge of German will bring them. But why do the young people in Great Britain fail to do so?
With a saturated graduate job market in which it is estimated that 70 similarly qualified graduates compete for every job, German language skills can give significant advantages.
In the last three years, a number of universities throughout the UK have closed their German departments.UK secondary school students interested in acquiring German language skills can do so through studying in Germany.
A 2010 report by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills estimates that only around 20,000 UK students are studying abroad worldwide and just around 2,000 UK students study at universities in Germany.
A survey conducted last year by the British Council placed Germany at the top of an international league table as the most supportive country for overseas students. But this top position has the negative effect that most German universities offer degree programmes run entirely in the English language, so many of those students can complete degrees without ever having to learn a word of German.
Germany has the leading and most influential economy in the European Union and ranks number four worldwide and its economy is comparable to that of all the world’s Spanish-speaking countries combined.
In the EU and the new economies of central and Eastern Europe, the importance of German as a language of business communication is growing.The question that arises is how the UK will ensure that it has a resource of qualified German-language speakers who can service the growing demand for German-English translation services.
The turnover of the translation industry in the UK is only 20% that of the translation industry in Germany, a figure which is worth analysing. The translation industry in the UK is exposed to the threat posed by low-cost economies and machine translation and the only way to stay competitive is by ensuring high-quality translation services performed by well qualified and experienced German-English translators. On the other hand, pricing for English-German and German-English translation services has held up best in a global comparison, due largely to the reasons stated above. As one of the well-established translation companies with a large team of in-house native speaker translators for German to England and English to German language services, EVS Translations receives a large number of orders every day for these combinations, with an increasing trend.