English isn’t enough— Jamaican students urged to pursue foreign languages

Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Alando Terrelonge, is encouraging more students to become bilingual and multilingual speakers, as this will greatly assist their own development and contribute to nation-building.

He argued that the next generation of Jamaicans will need to be competent in at least one foreign language in order to effectively communicate and form business relationships with non-English speakers, particularly the more than 530 million Spanish speakers in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

“The goal for the Ministry at this point in time is to see a core subject being a foreign language subject.

“If we are serious as a nation in ensuring the growth, development and prosperity of our youth, then we have to ensure that every single school offers a core foreign language so that by the time our students get to the university level, they would have amassed a level of competence that makes them certified,” he said.

Mr Terrelonge, who was addressing a foreign languages conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on Thursday (February 6), said that Jamaica “can only advance the welfare of the whole human race, by being able to communicate with others who speak foreign languages”.

“When we think of the region in which we live, Latin America and the Caribbean, Spanish is far more widely spoken than English is. If we do not do more to foster greater partnerships with our Hispanic neighbours, then what that means is that we would be short-changing the youth of Jamaica to truly make an impact on the global stage,” he said.

Mr Terrelonge noted that many students in non-traditional high schools are doing well in the study of foreign languages, and he wants to see this continue in order to open up more doors of opportunity for young people.

He said his knowledge of Spanish and French earned him a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom (UK) and later on an internship in Madrid, Spain.

The conference, organised by the Ministry in collaboration with the Foreign Languages Teachers’ Association, was aimed at promoting and improving the teaching and learning of foreign languages in Jamaica.