Terms like “fix up” and “what’s gwan” may be popular on the street, but they are costing thousands of youths in Britain the chance of a job because they cannot speak English properly, according to education and business leaders.
The proliferation of street slang and text messaging has become so problematic that many youngsters are now “virtually unemployable”.
While British exam boards are reporting an increase in teenagers writing in “text”, the verbal slang, made more popular by the likes of the comedian Ali G and rap artists such as So Solid Crew and 50 Cent, is exasperating businesses.
Nick Seaton, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said oral skills should be given as much emphasis in the classroom as reading and writing.
Teachers should be more rigorous in correcting pupils’ bad use of speech, he said.
“The key purpose of state education is to provide children of all backgrounds with a basic grasp of written and spoken English,” he said. “If that is not happening then the system is failing them.”
Business leaders said employing someone who speaks poor English costs firms “time and effort” to bring them up to scratch.
Chris Clifford, a spokesperson for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said many bosses were having to pay for flaws within the education system.
“What happens is employers have to start doing remedial training as a result of this,” he said. “They are having to spend time and effort bringing people up to the level they would expect them to be at when they come out of the education system.”
Gulfram Khan, the chairman of the Conservative Party in Aston, Birmingham, said the language barrier was costing youths jobs.
“This means that they are either not getting jobs or getting the lowest form of menial work,” he said.
“A lot of them go to interviews and are completely unable to express themselves in that sort of situation. While they may fit in on the streets, in the workplace they stand out like a sore thumb. If you can’t speak good English, how can you expect someone to give you a good job'”