We are seeing a new trend in how foreign languages are being learnt. Leading British language academic, Professor Anne Pauwels, from University of London said that the new class of language students is eager to learn, but only for a semester or two. People nowadays are more likely to take up Language Taster Classes than committing themselves to a long term study. Gone are those days where many university students will enrol in a particular foreign language and graduate with a degree in that foreign language.
Although less people are taking long term language courses, we have witnessed a significant surge in the number of people enrolling themselves in short term language taster classes. The number of people who are interested in learning a new language is much greater compared to a decade ago. Professor Pauwel stated that the hunger for foreign language is likely to change how language course providers operate.
Previously, a typical University language department will have seventy percent of students who are studying the foreign language as their only major or degree. Now, the percentage has dropped to twenty. It is observed that most students are eager to taste a language but those who will stay on as full timers are few and far between.
Meanwhile, people in the UK seem to be quite adventurous in seeking job opportunities abroad once they have completed the Language Taster courses. However, language experts have warned about the consequences. Anecdotal evidence has showed that very few students will gain the level of proficiency needed to work in another country by just finishing language taster courses. In order to attain business fluency in a language, a longer term study (for example 5 years) will be required. Language tasters are meant to give the student a flavour of the language, but not a complete mastery of it.
Compared to the British counterparts, European countries are quite susceptible to the idea of compulsory English language learning in their primary and secondary schools. It has allowed most Europeans to acquire competent English language skills to work in the UK, either as professionals or in businesses.
Many wonder why people are more willing to participate in language tasters and not as a long term discipline. This may be due to the internet age that we are living in. We are always hungry for new and exciting information, and the internet has transform how we look at things. We tend to have shorter attention span, less patience, but still want to achieve as much.
Furthermore, with the rise of globalisation, most people fantasize in meeting a partner from a foreign country. Mass media and Hollywood movies may also have helped in this regard. It is also said that many young people are enrolling in language classes to meet potential partners. After getting their date, serious language learning becomes less important.
So it seems that the paradigm to learn foreign languages has shifted. Like it or not, we will be seeing more language tasters for the foreseeable future. However, it is important to realise that a sustained period of study is always needed to truly become fluent in a particular foreign language.