It was inspirational to read John le Carré’s timely piece on “Why we should learn German” (News). Through his personal narrative about learning German, he encapsulates so eloquently all the key motivations for learning languages: access to other cultures; curiosity about the structure of language; the ability to engage in meaningful dialogue with crucial political and trading partners.
These are precisely the reasons why languages matter so much to our future: they are crucial for building deep relationships across cultural differences, both globally and in communities around the UK, relationships that are game-changers for business, security and peace in an interconnected world.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council has made modern languages a strategic focus through a major research programme, the Open World Research Initiative. All the Open World projects embed collaboration with schools (where the number of students studying languages is falling) and encourage a public conversation about languages across the UK. As the all-party parliamentary group for modern languages has highlighted, “a step-change in the UK’s national capacity in modern languages” is urgently required, all the more so in a post-Brexit world.
Professor Janice Carruthers
AHRC leadership fellow, modern languages, Queen’s University Belfast