Jeremy Hunt Gives Talk for Putney High School

Former health minister stresses the importance of languages

Jeremy Hunt believes learning languages reduces conflict
Jeremy Hunt believes learning languages reduces conflict


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March 5, 2021

The ex-Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, was the guest lunchtime speaker at Putney High School this week (Thursday 4 March).

The MP for South West Surrey joined students online as part of the Putney Ideas Exchange (PIE) Lunchtime talks programme, speaking on the topic of, “Why Language Learning Matters in the Modern World”.

Mr Hunt began by explaining that there are two languages spoken every day in his household: English and Chinese. Mr Hunt is also fluent in Japanese, which he used in his role as Foreign Secretary.

A quick show of hands demonstrated that there are also large numbers of students and staff at Putney High School who are bilingual so Mr Hunt went on to discuss with the reasons he thinks it is so important to learn to speak another language.

He believes that learning a language is a very good way to avoid misunderstandings between other countries for example with regard to human rights. He even gave the start of the First World War as an example of how linguistic confusion can lead to conflict.

In his view speaking with other nationalities allows us to understand how there are usually fewer cultural differences than we might think.

He added that there remained a need for the British to learn other languages despite billions of people across the world speaking English. He said language is not just a means of communication but actually a way to show friendship. Learning a foreign language demonstrates a level of interest and is an important way of building trust between people and nations.

PIE is Putney High School’s platform for speakers from a diverse range of backgrounds and industries, to share their life lessons and experiences with the students. Pupils get the opportunity to understand subjects from unique perspectives, to think about their future careers and to challenge themselves with intellectual debates and new ideas.

A spokesperson for the school said, “Inspiration indeed for Putney’s growing community of linguists. Thank you to Mr Hunt for an inspiring discussion.”