CIOL Vice-President Baroness Coussins in debate on language capabilities of UK defence services

“Does the UK have sufficient foreign language speakers serving the Armed Forces and defence services?” This was the subject of a short debate raised by Labour peer Lord Harrison in the House of Lords on 27 October.

Also taking part in the debate was CIOL Vice-President Baroness Jean Coussins, who co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, and is also President of the Speak to the Future campaign.

In her speech, while Baroness Coussins expressed her admiration for the work being done by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office language centre and the Defence Centre for Languages and Culture, she said that all the major studies that have looked into the issue have come to the conclusion that "there needs to be government-wide co-operation on language skills."

She went on to say that "Language skills are everybody’s and every department’s business" and called for "a truly national strategy for all ages and stages of education and learning."

Both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through rigorous training and assessment, actively take steps to ensure personnel have the necessary language skills – assessed by CIOL’s Awarding Organisation IoL Educational Trust – for their work.

Several contributors to the debate called for other parts of Government and civil service to consider their language capabilities.

Read the full debate here.

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Notes to editors

The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), founded in 1910, is the leading membership organisation for all language professionals. Membership includes translators and interpreters, language educationalists, and linguists who use their foreign languages in business.

The IoL Educational Trust (IoLET) is the associated charity of CIOL and is an awarding organisation offering a range of Ofqual regulated professional language qualifications.