A recent report from the British Academy has shed light on the UK government’s language capacity deficit, warning that immediate attention is required. The report, titled ‘Lost for Words’, has urged the government to recognise the importance of linguistic skills within its departments. It highlighted that the nation’s diplomatic influence is increasingly at risk, and failure to tackle the lack of language skills could cause serious harm to the country’s position on the global stage.
William Hague, the foreign secretary, has expressed his personal concern regarding the UK’s language deficit, emphasising the severe risk it poses to the UK’s global business standing, as well as its position within the diplomatic world. Hague has outlined that speaking, reading, listening, and writing in a foreign language is fundamental for diplomats to thoroughly understand and communicate with people from different countries.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s language centre reopened in September, indicating a strategic shift by the UK government towards recognising the significance of languages. Hague further emphasised the significance of linguistic capabilities and stated that diplomats cannot get under the skin of a country without such knowledge.
To commemorate the launch of the Lost for Words report, November’s languages festival will host a live chat to discuss the role of languages in diplomacy and national security. A panel consisting of experts on the topic, including Robin Niblett, Matthew Rycroft, Bill Rivers, Richard Brecht, Charles Crawford, and Afzal Amin, will lead the discussion. The event aims to emphasise the importance of languages in an increasingly interconnected and globalised world. Anyone can participate in the discussion by posting their questions in the comments section, or on Twitter through the hashtag #languagesdebate.