The Fifa World Cup taking place this summer in Korea and Japan is a reminder of the importance of international exchange, as the coordination and organisation of such a global event would not be possible if a common language were not shared.
It is also testimony to the advantages of second language acquisition, as we hear that local volunteers, who are fluent in one of the 18 languages used by the countries in the competition, are making their mobile phone numbers available for tourists arriving in Korea and Japan who cannot speak the local language.
Speaking a second language yields evident advantages and cultural insight for language learners. Many students see second language acquisition as a passport to further education in another country or better prospects in their career at home, as language students studying in the UK testify (pages 14-15). In some countries, such as Hungary, it is common for citizens to learn two or three languages, as language proficiency becomes more and more commonplace (page 8).
As it becomes more usual to have language skills, so the demand for languages which are less typical - such as Japanese, Hebrew or Swedish - increases, because students become more confident about adding to their language portfolio. In this issue, we include a list of language programmes that play a smaller, yet significant part in the market (page 29).
The realisation of the importance of language learning among school policy makers is a slow progression, although in non-English speaking countries, government policy over the years has evolved to foster better foreign language ability among its inhabitants. This is certainly the case in Germany, where all eight-year-olds are to be taught a foreign language by 2006 (page 4).
Even in the Middle East, interest in language learning, often seen as a pathway for academic study overseas, is rising slowly, despite the recent events in the region and the war in Afghanistan. The political situation has meant that the USA is no longer as popular a study destination, but overseas school representatives working in the region believe that the market's potential overall remains strong (page 17).
As some schools point out, the stability of a country's economy can influence its potential as a student provider country. While the growing economies of central European countries point to booming demand for language study overseas from this region (page 8), agents in France report only modest growth in their market last year, which is linked in part to the slow economic growth in the country (pages 10-11).
And in Italy, language teaching centres generally reported slow growth during 2001, as they witnessed the effects of September 11 in the USA on the US outbound student market, which is an important market for the country (page 27).
This underlines the need for schools to market to a wide range of countries - not only to ensure satisfied clients who learn in a truly international learning environment, but to guarantee a regular supply of students as economies fluctuate around the world. Such marketing techniques are also useful in ironing out the peaks and troughs of the market and ensuring a more constant stream of student traffic (pages 20-24).