This short report from the British Academy provides an overview of multilingualism in British society and education and is a fascinating read.
The report notes the scarcity of data on multilingualism outside the school population. There is available census data from the 2011 England and Wales census which shows that 8% of the population reported having a ‘main’ language other than English, with Welsh and Polish occurring more frequently than anything else. Surveys of school children have, unsurprisingly, indicated that London schools are the most linguistically diverse.
The report makes the case for multilingualism, citing benefits for health, communication, business, academia and public services. It also challenges a perceived hierarchy of bilingualism in which higher status is attached to languages which are formally learned as opposed to languages which are acquired in the home.
The educational context in England, Scotland and Wales is briefly outlined; language learning and teaching are discussed and the lack of a language education strategy in England is highlighted. Rather depressingly for those of us who research language learning motivation, the report states that:
‘there is little research into the attitudes of UK language learners’ (p. 5).
This is an interesting summary document – definitely worth a read