Children across the UK will be able to get a fresh insight into Mexican culture as well as learn some Spanish, thanks to a new education pack launched today by the British Council.To mark the visit of the President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto to the UK, the British Council has produced new resources to help primary school teachers celebrate Mexico and the Spanish language.
Since September 2014, all English schools have had to teach foreign languages to children from the age of seven. The British Council’s new free resource will feature a story in Spanish and in English by the Mexican author and Latin American Children’s laureate Francisco Hinojosa 'La peor señora del mundo/The worst woman in the world'. The resource also includes
- A Powerpoint presentation about Mexico that can be used in an assembly
- Two lesson ideas using the story – a writing activity and a Spanish language activity
- An art activity based on the work of Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
A lack of language skills has been estimated to cost the UK economy almost £50 billion a year. The 2014 GCSE entry figures showed an overall drop in the number of Modern Foreign Language exams, although the number of Spanish exams taken grew marginally by 1.9%.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said “Speaking another language is an invaluable skill, from helping people connect with the wider world, make new friends, and doing business. Being multi-lingual has given me the chance to engage with so many interesting people from around the world, so I’d like to see our leaders of tomorrow get a head start today.
“Mexico boasts an extremely rich culture. Taking the first steps to learning one of the most widely spoken languages on the planet will give children a window on Latin America through art and literature. It will also help them to start experimenting with learning a language from a young age.”
Vicky Gough, the British Council’s Schools Advisor, said: “The British Councils 2013 report languages for the Future identified Spanish as the most vital language to the UK over the next 20 years. We hope this resource will be useful for schools already teaching Spanish as well as providing an insight into Mexican culture. As the world we live in seems to get smaller by the day, allowing our young people to understand and appreciate other countries, cultures and languages is becoming increasingly important.”
The British Council’s 2013 report Languages for the Future identifies Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese as the languages most vital to the UK over the next 20 years. They were chosen based on economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors including the needs of UK businesses, the UK’s overseas trade targets, diplomatic and security priorities, and prevalence on the internet.
But, according to an online YouGov poll of more than 4000 UK adults commissioned by the British Council as part of the report, three quarters (75%) are unable to speak any of these languages well enough to hold a conversation. French is the only language spoken by a double-digit percentage (15%), followed by German (6%), Spanish (4%) and Italian (2%). Arabic, Mandarin, Russian or Japanese are each only spoken by 1% – while Portuguese and Turkish are each spoken by less than 1%.