I was very interested in the few comments posted on The Guardian’s site ranging from the usual “it is shameful but…” to diverting the discussion onto deciding which languages should be learnt.
Mandarin Chinese came up again and my gut reaction was to wonder how a defiant young monolingual would respond to learning a language so different to English when they are already unable to cope with the idea that the adjective goes after the noun in French…
Even more interestingly, one of the comment stated “I am less concerned about whether the average Briton speaks more than one language than to ensure that people who have a talent for language learning are properly served by the education system in future”.
To do this, I would suggest GCSE to be radically changed and a range of alternative language qualifications introduced. It is only possible to determine if somebody has a talent for languages if they are given a range of ways to demonstrate this.
In addition, when the issues of severity and unpredictability of grading in languages are finally tackled, only then students will be able to opt to study a foreign language in complete confidence, knowing that their achievements will be fairly recognized.