British pupils: learning a foreign language is super important. Here’s why.

Learning a foreign language can be tough. I should know; I’ve been doing it on and off all my life, and I’m far from a natural linguist. But it’s also incredibly important – something that employers recognise all too well. They are concerned about the fall in foreign language GCSE and A Level entries in the UK:

Bottom line: foreign language skills are very high valued in the global – and intensely competitive – jobs market. Knowing another language will give you a massive competitive advantage. It ain’t all English. I would even put speaking a second language ahead of acquiring a degree. In other words, forego university, and move abroad to hone your foreign language skills.

A quick example: you will not succeed in China, the world’s biggest economy, without knowing some Mandarin (it’s often a prerequisite for landing a job there). And even if you don’t fancy a move to China, you might need to speak the lingo anyway, with Chinese companies becoming increasingly visible on the world stage, from Huawei to Lenovo.

Use bad exam results as an opportunity to spring forward in life

Students sitting exams

Students in Britain will today be anticipating the results of their A Level exams with trepidation. Land top marks and they’re off to the uni of their dreams. A successful career and a property in Surrey await.

Get low grades and, bam, it’s the call centre.

Or perhaps not.

My A Level results were abysmal – two ‘E’s, a ‘C’ and a ‘D’.  My reaction was one of dismay and disbelief. But I deserved to get those terrible letters. I was a slacker, and even my best effort, Geography coursework, was risible (ironically it was about litter).

I was incredibly fortunate to get into university. Offered a place at the University of Hull, I was determined to work harder to thank whichever divine being got me there. I finished four years later with a more respectable result, and the ride had been fun too (while bumpy).

In the years in the “real world” since, I have failed and failed again. I have clambered back up on each occasion, often with immense difficulty. 2013 left me reeling, bruised, bloodied and battered in ways unprecedented. Head spinning, I sought to bounce back once more, and more or less succeeded. I will fail again, and will continue to fail until death, which of course is failure in itself.

Your school exam results will be the first of many big tests in life. Embrace whichever outcome comes your way.

Besides, university education is one of several options, and almost certainly the most expensive. You can start a business, join the workforce “early”, or get overseas experience – all of which are in all probability better career and life paths.