Do we need a common tongue? Languages and integration

In today’s globalised age, is it more or less important to insist that we speak a common language? Announcing a new £20 million language fund earlier this year, David Cameron argued that English classes would help disenfranchised Muslim women and those ‘more susceptible’ to extremism in Britain’s divided communities. But can language-learning really be instrumentalised in this way – as a method to tackle social problems? And what about so-called heritage languages – should the children of migrants be encouraged to speak English in the home or keep up the languages of their parents?

Filmed at the Battle of Ideas, the speakers are Professor Catherine Davies, director, Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London; Sameer Rahim, arts and books editor, Prospect Magazine; Mark Taylor, vice-principal, East London Science School; Jocelyn Wyburd, chair, University Council of Modern Languages. The chair is Dr Shirley Lawes, researcher; consultant and university teacher, specialising in teacher education and modern foreign languages; Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques.