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Plea to teach Mandarin and Russian in schools

By Gordon Calder

Deirdre Mackay.
Deirdre Mackay.

SCOTLAND is "a dinosaur when it comes to modern languages" according to far north Highland councillor Deirdre Mackay.

She believes more people should take a greater interest in learning a foreign language and has given her full support to a pilot project to look at best practice.

Mrs Mackay, who represents East Sutherland and Edderton and is the Caithness and Sutherland area committee convener, would like to see more youngsters studying languages at school.

She also believes the way foreign languages are taught in schools should be examined and sees a role for the area committee in such a task.

"We could help influence the strategy and policy. This is something I feel strongly about and have been on about for the best part of 10 years. It is very important," she said.

Mrs Mackay says pupils should be learning to speak the languages which will benefit them in an ever-changing world where countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China are playing a key role.

"We are continuing to teach French in our schools but perhaps we should be looking at Mandarin – spoken in China – Portugese (the language in Brazil) and Russian.

"Scotland has to compete in the world but it is a dinosaur when it comes to modern languages," she said.

Mrs Mackay said she accepted English was a global language but believed business and the economy would benefit if more Scots could speak languages such as Mandarin and Portugese. She advocates teaching languages at pre-school age and pointed out that youngsters "up to the age of seven absorb things like a sponge."

Mrs Mackay said the Scottish Government was looking at the issue and has facilitated pilot schemes all around the country, including one in Lochaber.

Meanwhile, she reminded local bodies an annual £1million fund is available to help communities deliver certain council services and reduce costs.

The Community Challenge Fund is open to community councils, community groups and established social enterprises with the £1million divided between projects.

The council is looking for sustainable projects which will:

Deliver the same level of council service at a lower cost

Deliver a higher level of council service at the same cost

Help to reduce the council’s costs for maintaining premises by taking on the maintenance and running costs with a one-off fund contribution.

The deadline for the next round of expression of interest is May 1.

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