Traditional A-level disciplines such as French are in “freefall” following a record decline in entry rates over the last decade … according to recent figures.

It seems the youth of Britain remain wholly unconvinced as to the usefulness of mastering a foreign language. If you ask me, this is because the reasons for doing as much have never been presented terribly well.  As a kid my teachers told me French would be useful because:

  • you could take holidays in France
  • you could work/study in France
  • you could read Alexandre Dumas in French
  • er, bof, that’s it

And my parents didn’t really have an opinion one way or the other. But that was then – now things should be very different. Nowadays the reasons to master a language is a simple question of economics. So one wonders precisely what it is that teachers are telling their pupils?

Take me as an example.  I have just started a two-year Masters in English at the University of Strasbourg.  The tuition fees for this course are 250 EUR a year. Yes two hundred and fifty Euro.  If I were to study French in the UK however it would cost me between 3,390 and 4,500 GBP a year.

At current exchange rates (1.25 to 1) that makes studying in the UK up to twenty two and a half times more expensive than in France.  For undergraduate courses the difference is even more striking costing less than 200 bucks a year in France compared with up to 9000 in the UK (over fifty times higher).

So if you want to motivate your kids to learn a foreign language try this:

  • you might actually be able to afford to GO to university and …
  • you won’t be debt laden for the rest of your life if you do

So next time that grumpy teenager comes home and announces that he/she is going to drop French … have words!