Did you know?

Selecting GCSE options is the first major decision your child will have to make in their education, and it’s an important one. But although you may feel some subjects have more value than others, it may be difficult for you and your children to predict which subjects will help them in later life – and this may not be their highest priority when deciding between subjects.

So to help you and your children understand the benefits of learning languages at GCSE level or equivalent, we’ve put together answers to some frequently asked questions below…

What does learning a language at GCSE level involve?

A language GCSE will teach young people practical use of a language – which could help them in almost any career and open up opportunities at home and abroad. It will also give them a wider knowledge of their world, so they can take their place in global society. If your child does choose to continue languages past GCSE level it will provide them with a suitable basis for further study.

What will my child get out of doing a language GCSE?
Transferable skills are a watch word among employers, who want candidates with strengths that translate to the workplace. The language GCSE curriculum fosters key skills, such as communication, ICT, problem-solving and working with others and will help your child in preparation for the world of work. Even if your child isn’t sure whether they want to continue with languages past GCSE level, university admissions tutors will often look favourably on applicants with language skills – and some top universities, such as University College London, will actually be demanding a language GCSE for entry from 2012.

How will choosing a language at GCSE level improve my child’s employment prospects?

A language GCSE is a huge advantage in the workplace. We don’t just mean for kids who want to be a teacher or translator – language skills will prove useful for anything and everything, from fashion to sport, music and technology. Employers say they want applicants with conversational ability in a second language; which means just having a little bit of language could help your child when they come to get a job. Your child may not fancy working abroad, but UK businesses need linguists and a little bit of knowledge of a second language will help them in careers from technology to customer service, and can even be helpful when looking for summer jobs, particularly in tourism.

What other opportunities could my child have as a result of learning a language?

Just one in four of the world’s population speaks English, which means having another language will give your child countless opportunities to meet new people, make friends and network. These days gap years are becoming ever more popular – close to seven in ten teenagers say they’d like to work abroad at some point. Linguist Sarah Wilson has lived in Spain and Argentina and says she would have been lost without her language skills on her gap year travels. “I cannot imagine how hard life would be here without being able to speak Spanish.”

What if my child doesn’t think a language GCSE is for them?

Languages have a reputation for being difficult and it’s true that a language GCSE is a rigorous qualification, which is why it is so valued in the wider world. But it’s a myth that languages are only for the super-intelligent. Alex Read, who has landed a job with a multilingual telecoms firm says, “I never felt I was a natural linguist at school but I persevered with it – and that determination has really paid off.” Moreover, languages aren’t just for young people who are interested in the arts subjects – a language GCSE will complement any other subject your child is taking, from maths to music. Having a language along with another specialism can be very beneficial in later life. For example, the World Health Organisation demands that all its employees have proficiency in a second language.

If your child is still not convinced by a language GCSE, there are other options to learn a language – such as the Asset Language qualification or, from 2011, a Diploma in Languages. Your school will be able to tell you more about the availability of these options.

What language should my child learn?

All languages are valuable – we know there is demand for everything from French, German and Spanish to community languages such as Polish and Urdu. More importantly, the skills learned during a language GCSE are hugely transferable and will help a young person throughout their life, whatever career path they choose to follow. Your child’s school will be able to give you more information on the language options available.

Where can I go for more information?
-To find out more about careers with languages, click here
– For more information about Diplomas click here
– To discover more about the Asset languages qualification, click here
– For further advice for your child in choosing GCSE options, click here
– To help your child get a taste of life in another language, click here