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Languages at work
Languages at work

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2 Why study languages?

This section aims to demonstrate the importance of learning languages and give you a taste of a variety of different languages.

Activity 7

Timing: You should allow 10 minutes

Before we begin, think about the reasons why people should learn languages in the first instance. Write down some of your ideas.

Activity 8 Reactions

Timing: You should allow 5 minutes

Listed below are a set of statements and reactions. Read through them all and match each one with the appropriate response.


  1. It is pointless to learn another language – everyone speaks English anyway!

  2. I'll study a language later on in life only if I need it for work

  3. What is the point of learning another language … I won't earn any more money.

  4. I never go abroad on holiday, so I don't need to learn another language.

  5. Learning a language is too difficult.

  6. I won't need another language for the work I want to do.


Reactions [These will need to be placed in a random order. At the moment, they are placed in order to identify that the correct reaction to 1 is A, 2 is B, 3 is C, 4 is D, 5 is E, 6 is F – answers to be provided after activity as collapsible text.]

A. Certainly not everyone speaks English. According to the CIA World Fact Book, only 5.6% of the world's total population speaks English as a primary language. That number doubles when people who speak English as a second or third language are counted. By conservative estimates, that means that well over four-fifths of the world's population does not speak English. Source:

B. Though you can learn a language later in life, it is more difficult; learning a language is different than learning a factually-based subject like geography: it is still like riding a bike, and, like riding a bike, it is easier when you're young. Also like riding a bike, although you may be a bit wobbly when you get on after not having practised for a long time, you never really forget it. Source: © CILT, Languages Work, 2008

C. Anyone can learn a language – you do not need to be ‘clever’. There are all sorts of ways to learn and you'll be able to find one that suits you. If you find learning in class difficult then visit which will give you some exciting ideas on how to study online. Source: © CILT, Languages Work, 2008

D. It is true that not employer pays more to employees who have a language qualification; but many do. And even more importantly, you are more likely to get a good job if you have another language: school leavers in Europe often have their own language, English and one other language, as well as other qualifications like business studies; and they can come and work here, just as easily as you could go and work abroad – if you have a language! Source: © CILT, Languages Work, 2008

E. Whatever your career goals, knowing a language certainly won't hurt your employability. Chances are that knowing languages will open up employment opportunities that you would not have had otherwise. Source:

F. You do not just need a language to go on holiday; you can use languages in the UK as part of your job. Have a look at the CILT website: for some examples of ways in which people use their languages at work. And if you get a good job using your language, maybe you'll get a chance to go on holiday abroad! Source: © CILT, Languages Work, 2008



The answers are:

  1. E

  2. A

  3. D

  4. F

  5. C

  6. B

Activity 9 Holiday talk

Timing: You should allow 30 minutes

Write down three words (in English) that you think you would have to learn if you went abroad, to a country of your choice. Now use the internet to find translations for those words. Write down the language, the word in English and the translation. If you can find it, also write down the pronunciations of each word you have translated.