Call for new chief government linguist to boost profile of languages in policy

Written by Richard Johnstone on 28 November 2018 in News

Greater awareness about the benefits of multilingualism would help boost crucial post-Brexit areas including international relations and trade, say researchers

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The government has today been urged to create the post of a chief government linguist to boost the awareness of modern languages in policymaking and ensure coordination to increase the numbers learning new languages.

The call comes from the Open World Research Initiative, a major modern languages research initiative funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and involving over 100 researchers in fifteen universities around the UK.

According to the group, increased awareness of the impact learning languages can have would help improve policymaking in areas as diverse as international relations, trade, defence, culture and community cohesion.


A chief government linguist would be similar to the existing post of government chief scientific adviser. He or she would be a senior civil servant who would mobilise executive support and coordinate the embedding of languages in government policy across a range of departments, and could act as a champion for languages both within and outside government, Professor Janice Carruthers, a Modern Languages Leadership Fellow from Queen’s University, said:

“In both Whitehall and the devolved administrations, support for languages in departments of education is clearly vital if we are seeking to ensure that future generations have strong language skills,” she said. “But it is also important that languages are embedded in policy across a range of government departments and in government strategies where they are highly relevant.” 

The OWRI project will set out details of the plan to MPs and others at an event in Westminster Hall today.

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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