Reports suggest that fewer school-going students in English-speaking countries such as the US, the UK, Australia and even New Zealand are picking up a second or foreign language.
This is a worrying trend as it makes students less competitive, in addition to having a a smaller arsenal of the skills needed to thrive in this increasingly globalised and multicultural world.
A Pew Research Center report found that only 20 percent of K12 students in the US participate in foreign language education, compared to 92 percent of European students.
Save UK's 'dwindling' language skills, say MPs and peers https://t.co/fWbKH0HTms
— branwen jeffreys (@branwenjeffreys) March 4, 2019
In the UK, a BBC report said: “BBC analysis shows drops of between 30 percent and 50 percent since 2013 in the numbers taking GCSE language courses in the worst affected areas in England. A separate survey of secondaries suggests a third have dropped at least one language from their GCSE options.
It added: “Figures for Wales showed that GCSE language entries fell by 29 percent over five years, and 35 percent of schools have dropped at least one language from their options at GCSE” while in Northern Ireland, “the numbers taking modern languages at GCSE have fallen by 40 percent since 2003, with 45 percent of schools saying they have cut the numbers of specialist language teachers in the past five years.”
The report noted that “41 percent of schools in Scotland who responded said they had stopped offering at least one foreign language course to 16-year-olds.”
Speaking to the BBC, Carmel College in St Helens, Merseyside, Principal Mike Hill believes that schools and students see languages as a “high-risk choice”, as for these subjects, it is more challenging to achieve good grades in exams.
Can Netflix motivate students to pick up a second or foreign language?
All of a sudden, I get dozens of choices for #dubbing and #subtitling at my #Netflix account. I believe it's because I've accessed the platform using an app called #LLN (Language Learning with Netflix) which pulls audio and #subtitle strings. Heaven for the language nerd! pic.twitter.com/tKxfDIpQOJ
— Stavroula Sokoli (@StavroulaSokoli) February 18, 2019
No doubt that learning a new language can be challenging for both young and older students, while those from English-speaking countries may see little need to pick up another language.
However, can a streaming service like Netflix, which, in North America, remains a leader in video consumption among teenagers, change that?
A Chrome extension called Language Learning With Netflix (LLN) enables viewers to learn a new language through watching Netflix.
According to the Chrome Web Store, with this Chrome extension, students can watch their favourite shows with two subtitles on simultaneously, enabling them to compare the translation with the original audio and text; this may help build their listening comprehension skills.
Some of the languages currently available include Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. Students can also slow down dialogue, while there’s also a pop-up dictionary.
So, can this tool help rejuvenate students' love of learning language? Should parents and educators embrace LLN in their children's or students’ lives?
While the benefits of LLN remains to be seen, this tool may be useful in complementing students’ language study outside of the classroom.