To remain competitive, the UK desperately needs to improve language education. But the thought of learning a second language sounds incredibly intimidating to many people. What to do?
A new campaign launched just last week aims to make language learning seem more attainable to everyone, not just top-ranked students. The 1000 Words campaign, organized by Speak to the Future, encourages everyone to learn just 1000 words in another language, instead of trying to become completely fluent. According to the Speak to the Future website, 1000 words will be enough to get to you to a basic level of proficiency (level A2 on the Common European Framework of Reference).
At this level of proficiency, you can handle basic, routine tasks and situations. So, you would be competent enough to get out of the “holiday bubble” that often keeps native English speakers from connecting with the local culture on vacation, or perhaps to handle some business-related tasks like waiting on customers.
In a press release, Speak to the Future Campaign Director Bernardette Holmes explained:
“The idea that everyone can learn the basics of another language is both realistic and attainable. We are not expecting instant fluency. Yet if everyone were capable of at least 1,000 words in a new language, social attitudes and economic prospects would be significantly enhanced – young people would be better prepared for the challenges of globalisation and our cultural and intellectual levels would be raised. I urge everyone in a position of influence to join the campaign and help us achieve this aim.”
1000 words gets you a basic grasp of another language, but the campaign organizers hope that many people will continue on with language learning once they get a taste. Professor Nigel Vincent, Vice-President for Research and Higher Education at the British Academy said:
‘The hard thing about learning a language is getting started. 1000 words can easily lead to 5000 or more, or indeed to 1000 words in a different language. The benefits for the nation if people are persuaded to take this step will be immense.”