Survey finds Brits want to learn another language in 2018

by Ray Clancy on January 2, 2018

British people are not known for their proficiency in foreign languages, but a new poll suggests they want to be with one in five planning to do some learning in 2018.

One in three intends to try and learn at least some phrases in another language in the year ahead with Spanish the most popular option, according to the survey released by the British Council, the nation’s organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.


(By Olly/

After Spanish, learning French is the most popular choice, followed by Italian, German and Japanese and the British Council is urging people to make the move and learn more ahead of Brexit.

The survey also found that 64% have always wanted to speak another language fluently with 56% stating that they regret never having made the effort to do so while 58% think it is more important than ever for people in the UK to learn another language.

Yet currently only a third said they can hold a basic conversation in another language and 45% admitted to being embarrassed by the level of their language skills.

‘It’s fantastic that many of us hope to brush up on our language skills in 2018. In particular, the languages we are most keen to learn are some of the languages the UK needs most,’ said Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council.

But the country is still facing a languages deficit. If we are to remain globally competitive post-Brexit, we need more people who can speak languages. Learning other languages not only gives you an understanding of other cultures but is good for business, for life and for wellbeing too. The New Year is the perfect time to get started,’ she added.

The British Council’s call comes as the uptake of languages in schools faces a challenging time. Official figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications highlight a 7.3% drop in the number of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland taking GCSE language exams in the past year. There is also a 1% drop at A Level. Scottish Qualification Authority figures indicate that the situation is similar in Scotland with significant drops in French and German uptake in the past year.

The UK’s current lack of language skills is said to be holding back the country’s international trade performance at a cost of almost £50 billion a year.

For those keen to start learning another language in the New Year, the British Council has a series of language learning videos with practical hints and tips while young people can spend time abroad through schemes like Erasmus+ and Language Assistants.

It also points out that there are lots of language online apps, podcasts, courses and games available to help people try a new language, or dust off their previous language knowledge and these can be used alone or alongside traditional classes.

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