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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 00:31 GMT 01:31 UK
Universities in languages drive
Cilt language poster
There are many different ways to say hello
A drive to encourage more students to study languages is being launched after a drop in undergraduate numbers.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) is putting forward £4.5m to enable universities to hold summer events and work with schools.

The drive comes as people are being encouraged to brush up their linguistic skills on European Day of Languages.

Hefce announced the campaign after identifying foreign languages as a key area for Britain's future prosperity.

Optional subject

Modern foreign language study for 14 to 16-year-olds is optional in England, Wales and Scotland, with Northern Ireland moving the same way.

The numbers of pupils taking qualifications in French and German, in particular, have plummeted.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson said earlier this month that ministers in England were wondering whether they had done the right thing.

Cilt, the National Centre for Languages, has welcomed the Hefce campaign.

A spokeswoman said: "This is a significant step forward in collaboration to bring our young people's capability in other languages up to the level of their counterparts in other European countries, with whom they will be competing for jobs in the global economy."

As part of Cilt's celebrations for the European Day of Languages, prizes are being awarded to 12 innovative projects which promote language, in a ceremony at the Scottish Parliament.


The 12 were chosen from more than 100 entries.

A spokeswoman said: "It shows how innovative language learning can be - and that it's not just about getting to the end of the lesson."

Cilt has sent education packs to schools and businesses across the UK.

They include a game for pupils to learn how to say "hello" in a multitude of ways - such as "tere" in Estonian and "chào" in Vietnamese.

According to Cilt the UK comes bottom in Europe in the percentage of citizens who speak another language - at 34% compared with 87% of the Dutch.

But Cilt says the news is not all bad.

"Yes we have seen a drop in the number of students studying specific languages as a sole subject," a spokeswoman said.

"But there has been an increase in the number of students studying languages alongside their main degree subject."


1: If a Frenchman tells you to keep your "sang-froid" (cold blood), what does he mean? a: Keep your hat on b: Stay calm c: Mind your own business

2: Which European language gave us the words "sleigh", "nitwit" and "cookie"? a: Norwegian b: Dutch c: Czech

3: Brassica is the Latin name for which spice? a: Mustard b: Cinnamon c: Cumin

4: "Vino" is the Spanish word for wine. What word is used in Spanish to define red wine? a: Tinto b: Rojo c: Roso

5: "Pinocchio" is Italian for? a: Pine eyes b: Pine nose c: Pine ears

6: What does "Real" mean in the football team name Real Madrid? a: Great b: Real c: Royal

7: What percentage of the world's population live in a country where English is not the mother tongue? a: 30% b: 60% c: 90%

(These are a few questions from a quiz produced by Cilt, the National Centre for Languages)

Answers: 1(b); 2(b); 3(a); 4(a); 5(a); 6(c) 7(c)

Rethink on school language study
14 Sep 06 |  Education
Languages 'at point of no return'
24 Aug 06 |  Education
Language learning kicks off
27 Jul 06 |  Magazine
UK 'loves languages after all'
25 Sep 05 |  Education


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