Press Release 14th September 2004 SPEAKING IN TONGUES - MPS SIGN by pengxiuhui

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									PRESS RELEASE
14th September 2004
PR51a/04

        SPEAKING IN TONGUES - MPS SIGN UP TO NIACE’S PARLIAMENTARY
                         LANGUAGES CHALLENGE

It wasn’t just children who were going back to school last week: parliamentarians were also
showing that it’s never too late to learn when MPs from the three main political parties took part in
a Parliamentary Languages Challenge in Westminster last Wednesday (8th September). The event -
organised by the National Institute of Adult Education (NIACE) as part of its Sign Up Now
Campaign and to mark International Literacy Day - allowed MPs to indulge in a specialist, one-to-
one, language taster session of their choice.


The MPs brushing up on their language skills at NIACE’s Sign Up Now/Parliamentary Languages
Challenge included:
    •   Alastair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland and Meg Munn,
        Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, who had taster sessions in Danish.
    •   Alastair Burt, Conservative MP for Bedfordshire North East and Anne Campbell, Labour
        MP for Cambridge, who had taster sessions in French.

    •   Dr Phyllis Starkey, Labour MP for Milton Keynes South West, who had a taster session in
        Arabic.

    •   John Randall, Conservative MP for Uxbridge, who had a taster session in Punjabi.

    •   Joe Benton, Labour MP for Bootle and Martin Linton, Labour MP for Battersea, who had
        taster sessions in Spanish.

    •   Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton, who had a taster session in Portuguese

Rachel Thomson, Senior Campaigns Officer at NIACE, said, “The Sign Up Now/ Parliamentary
Languages Challenge was so successful because we applied some of the key principles for effective
adult learning provision. Ask learners what they want to learn; follow up on their expressions of
interest; seek out talented and committed tutors; deliver the sessions that are wanted; and provide
them at a time and a place that meet learners’ needs.”
She ended, “When it comes to adult learning, MPs are, in so many ways, no different to the rest of
us - once you start your learning journey, there’s no stopping you. To find out what's on offer
where you are, call learndirect free on 0800 100 900. That call could change your life for good.”


                                               -ends-


Media Contacts:

For further information call Ed Melia, NIACE Press Officer on 0116 204 4248 or 07795 358 870.


Notes To Editors

   1. The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) is the leading non-
      government organisation for lifelong learning and exists to encourage more and different
      adults to engage in learning of all kinds and campaigns for, and celebrates the achievements
      of, all adult learners.

   2. Sign Up Now is organised by NIACE; and aims to reach new and different learners by
      encouraging them to enrol on a programme of learning. It ran from 4th – 10th September
      2004.

   3. The Parliamentary Languages Challenge event took place on Wednesday 8th September
      2004 at Church House, Westminster between 10am and 4pm. The participating MPs had
      previously contributed to a survey in May for NIACE’s Adult Learners’ Week, which asked
      MPs which languages they spoke and which languages, if they had the time and opportunity,
      they would like to speak.

   4. To find out details of the courses on offer as part of Sign Up Now, information is available
      from either local colleges or adult education centres, or call learndirect free on 0800 100
      900.

   5. Sign Up Now is core-funded through the Department for Education & Skills, the European
      Social Fund, the Learning & Skills Council and Ufi/learndirect.




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What did the MPs think?


Alastair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, who had a taster
session in Danish

“ I chose Danish because in the constituency I represent - Orkney and Shetland - we do have a lot of
contacts and historic links with Denmark, so it would be a useful skill for me to have. The lesson
was absolutely fascinating; I was quite taken with it.


“Learning languages makes travel to foreign languages more meaningful because you can actually
speak to people in their own languages. In many ways it reveals so much more about the culture of
another country and if you have an understanding of the culture you have an understanding of the
people and politics – so it can be invaluable.”


Alastair Burt, Conservative MP for Bedfordshire North East, who had a taster session in
French

“I thoroughly enjoyed the event and stayed a lot longer than I had originally intended to. As a
nation we are very poor at languages. I am keen to improve my conversational French, and I would
encourage youngsters, and indeed anyone, to consider having a working language which makes
conducting business, as well as travelling on holiday, easier and more interesting when abroad. It's
not as difficult as it looks!”


Anne Campbell, Labour MP for Cambridge, who had a taster session in French

"I certainly enjoyed the lesson I had just now - I found out I knew more than I thought I did but I
learnt quite a lot as well. I've been trying to improve my French, because I travel to France fairly
frequently and I'm always embarrassed about my lack of ability to communicate with people. I
think it's very important that we don't fall into the trap that we expect everyone else will speak
English. It makes much more of an impression, much more of an impact, if you go to a country and
speak their language and I think they appreciate that as well."




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Dr Phyllis Starkey, Labour MP for Milton Keynes South West, who had a taster session in
Arabic


“The lesson was very hard work but I did manage to learn a few useful phrases, so at least I can
greet people on my visits to countries. I go to the Middle East quite a lot and I think it’s very good
to be able to speak a few words in a language when you go to their country. This event has
certainly made me want to learn it on a more regular basis – the problem for somebody like me is
finding the time to do it. I think I shall try and do it with a tape rather than with a teacher, simply
because I can do it wherever I am.”

Joe Benton, Labour MP for Bootle, who had a taster session in Spanish

“Many years ago, through my work with a shipping company, I got up to a reasonably good level
and was quite fluent in Spanish. Natalia, my tutor, told me she was very impressed with my
Spanish and that I really shouldn’t let it go which I’m afraid I have done in recent years. I’m very
pleased with the lesson this morning – it’s given me an added incentive now to go back and re-study
the Spanish tongue.”


“I think it’s so important – it doesn’t particularly matter which languages you learn - it’s very
rewarding and it’s very, very interesting and something you can take pride in. People from other
countries seem to take a lot more kindly to you if you can prove to them that you’ve made an
attempt to learn their language.”


John Randall, Conservative MP for Uxbridge, who had a taster session in Punjabi

“Punjabi is something that I wanted to just break into, there are quite a lot of Punjabi speaking
constituents in my constituency, I’m Vice-Chairman of the All Parliamentary Punjabi Group and I
thought it would be quite nice to find out what’s behind the language. There was a lot to absorb but
it’s certainly broken some of the mystery with regard the alphabet and things - too much to do in an
hour, but a very, very good start and an excellent tutor and of course nothing can beat one-to-one
teaching.”


“I’m very much a fan of people learning languages – I don’t think the British are quite as bad as
we’re made out to be, I was mad enough to do Serbo-Croat as my degree course so obviously I am
biased on that. I think it’s fascinating, it opens up so much more, it opens doors, when you go to a
country you find out so much more – and it’s a form of politeness.”




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Martin Linton, Labour MP for Battersea, who had a taster session in Spanish


“I’ve just been learning a bit of Spanish, just enough to get by if I go there on holiday. Spain is a
beautiful country. The taster session was very good, Natalia was a very good teacher and we got
through an awful lot and I picked up lots of useful phrases. She made me repeat everything which
is a really useful technique.”


“It’s no use to take the old fashioned attitude that English people used to take that if the waiter
doesn’t understand what you’re saying – repeat it more loudly and more slowly in English and
you’ll hope that it’ll get through. I do feel that if you go somewhere on holiday for more than a
week you do need to speak some of the language to get by, as a courtesy to the people who live
there.”


Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton, who had a taster session in Portuguese

“I’ve been trying to refresh my Portuguese; it’s been fifteen years since I’ve been able to practise it
on a regular basis. This session helped me remember how much I had forgotten. I’m the Party’s
International Development Spokesman and certainly in Africa, in countries like Mozambique and
Angola where Portuguese is the main language – and Brazil, where International Development is a
big issue, being able to speak Portuguese is extremely helpful.”


“The British as a whole are not very strong on languages, to arrive in a country and expect everyone
to speak English is rather rude. In terms of establishing a relationship, being able to speak or at
least make an effort to speak in their language is helpful. It opens doors which will remain shut
otherwise.”




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