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Changing attitudes to language learning – Nia Griffith opening address

In our opening address at the ITI Conference (19 May), Nia Griffith highlighted the challenges in changing attitudes to language learning in the UK.

In other countries, there was an appetite for learning languages. By contrast, in her experience as a teacher most of the work had been about trying to motivate children to learn.

There was need to fight for every minute of language speaking time in schools. Progress made in the National Curriculum had been undone as a result of the fragmentation arising from different types of schools.

Teaching in primary schools could not be done on the cheap. The experience in Wales was that little progress was made between the ages of 5 and 11 in the learning of other languages, with those doing the teaching often not well equipped in terms of experience and qualifications.

There was a need to value those individuals who have a second or third language, because a lot of work is required to acquire this skill. This talent should be harnessed as they could be the translators and interpreters of the future.

Translation technology was useful but it would ‘never be the real thing’ because of the subtlety of language and issues relating to register, tone and culture.

Nia concluded by saying that languages were more important now than ever, as we had to continue to have a good rapport with our European neighbours while also looking to countries further afield.



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