Learning foreign languages even more important for Brits following Brexit

by Ray Clancy on November 23, 2016

British people should be encouraged more to improve their language skills as these are set to be more vital than ever if the UK is to remain outward looking and open for business in a post-Brexit world.

A survey by the British Council, which represents British cultural issues abroad, found that the majority of those questioned regard being able to speak foreign languages as being essential and many are embarrassed by their lack of ability.

112216-languagesSome 63% said languages are vital if the UK is to successfully reach out to other countries, and 61% regard them as important for continued trade and investment when the country leaves the European Union.

Over two thirds of those surveyed, 67%, believed that as a country the UK does not encourage enough young people to learn other languages while 63% said that schools need to make more time than ever before for language learning due to Brexit.

There was overwhelming support for opportunities that allow young people to experience other languages and cultures with 69% of respondents saying that school exchanges and schemes like Erasmus Plus should remain open. This rose to 74% for 18- to 24-year-olds, highlighting the value that young people themselves place on international experience.

The British Council research report points out that language uptake in schools remains low when compared to other subjects and this year the number of pupils taking a languages GCSE was less than half the number of those taking one in maths while overall language entries dropped at both GCSE and A-level by 5.57% and 3.86% respectively.

Previous research by the British Council and Education Development Trust has also found that teachers have ‘deep concerns’ about the current situation facing language learning in schools in England with pressure on curriculum time highlighted as a major challenge.

‘As the UK comes to reposition itself on the world stage, language skills matter now more than ever. And with the country already facing a languages shortfall, we must do everything we can to encourage more people to acquire these vital skills,’ said Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council.

‘The reality is that speaking another language not only boosts job prospects but also allows you to connect with another culture. If the UK is to remain globally competitive as we prepare to leave the EU, language learning must become a national priority,’ she added.

The research concludes that language skills are vital to the UK’s future prosperity with the country’s current lack of these skills estimated to cost billions in missed business and trade opportunities every year.

Indeed, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the foreign languages most in demand among British businesses are French with 50% saying so, 47% German and 30% Spanish.

The British Council research also found while only 12% claimed to speak a foreign language to a high standard, 28% said they were able to hold basic conversations but 41% were embarrassed by their lack of foreign language skills.

Some 75% agreed that speaking more than one language is an important skill to have and 79% said it would bring greater employment opportunities while 26% said they now felt embarrassed about the fact the UK has chosen to leave the European Union when travelling abroad and this rose to 52% of 18- to 24-year-olds.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bill Chapman November 23, 2016 at 8:39 am

No mention here of the planned international language Esperanto?

Esperanto is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states. Using it brings speakers of different mother tongues together without having to resort to English or a strong regional language.

Not many people know that Esperanto has native speakers. See:


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