The number of students learning foreign languages has dropped to its lowest level yet. The answer, says private tutor Lucinda Williams, is to make it more fun

With recent news reporting that foreign languages learning is at its lowest level yet, it is fundamental to explore why so many students are giving up modern foreign languages (MFL) and explore what can be done to make languages more attractive to students. 

One of the main reasons students aren’t choosing to study MFL at GCSE level and beyond is because languages are perceived as a difficult subject; many believe it is harder to get a high grade in these exams. 

I was lucky, I was good at languages at school and loved my French and Spanish lessons. I was also fortunate enough to have exceptional teachers who ignited my interest in languages. Languages are difficult, but I have found them invaluable in both my professional and private life. 

Now a private language tutor, I have taught international students at all ages and levels in the course of my career. From an international boarding school in Switzerland to engaging in several international residential placements in France, Italy, Spain and Greece, each experience presented me with new challenges but also left me with a wealth of linguistic skills and an in-depth knowledge of each culture. 

When tutoring students, it is important not only to improve their ability and confidence in the chosen language, but to make them aware of the benefits of learning a language. These include increased cultural awareness, improving cognitive ability, making travel easier, enhancing career opportunities and, according to some medical reports, even delaying the onset of dementia. 

“Knowing another language encourages friendship, trust and understanding” – Lucinda Williams

Private tutoring is enormously beneficial and, if done properly, can stimulate a student’s enthusiasm for a subject. With languages, this can be achieved by tailoring individual sessions to each student’s interests. This may include watching a short clip of a Japanese animé in French, reading an article about astro-physics in Spanish or listening to an Italian TedTalk on feminism and then discussing it in the target language. After completing such tasks, not only do students tend to grasp crucial vocabulary and acquire key phrases, they start to have fun; thinking about what countries their language might take them to, what friendships they might make, what career paths they might take. 

What’s more, knowing another language encourages friendship, trust and understanding. When talking to foreigners, you meet new people and make friends.  It is estimated that more than 437 million people speak Spanish, which qualifies it as the second most spoken language in the world. Just by learning one language you have the ability to speak and communicate with over 5% of the world’s population.

As a teacher, you see a student’s passion for a language change when the emphasis in their learning moves from examination to exploration. This is very rewarding and I am keen to continue this in order to make languages more attractive to students.  We live in a multilingual world, let’s embrace foreign languages.