Wednesday 25 September 2013

A new campaign to be launched on 25 September aims to challenge elitist attitudes towards language learning and calls for 1000 words in another language as a realistic goal for all.

The 1000 words campaign is one of a series of new initiatives from Speak to the Future, a broad coalition of organisations committed to improving Britain’s capability in languages, and to raising awareness of their economic and cultural importance. It is funded jointly by the British Academy and the university-based programme Routes into Languages.

1000 words will be launched on 25 September at the British Council, one of the founder supporters of the campaign. It coincides with celebrations around Europe to mark the European Day of Languages (26 September) and will include a live video link up with this year’s main international conference marking the occasion, held in the Lithuanian Parliament in Vilnius. There will also be testimonies from UK organisations representing schools, businesses, learners, and cultural organisations, pledging their commitment to achieving 1000 words for all.

Bernardette Holmes, Speak to the Future’s Campaign Director, said: ‘The idea that everyone can learn the basics of another language is both realistic and attainable.  No matter your age, your social background or your ability, language learning can transform your future.  We are not expecting instant fluency. Yet if everyone were capable of at least 1000 words in a new language, social attitudes and economic prospects would be significantly enhanced: young people would be better prepared for the challenges of globalisation and our cultural and intellectual levels would be raised. I urge everyone in a position of influence to join the campaign and help us achieve this aim’.

Vicky Gough of the British Council said: ‘For too long people from the UK have suffered from a reputation that we are lazy linguists. Speaking another language is crucial to understanding another culture – so  let’s overturn our poor record in language learning and show that we’re ready to engage with a multilingual world.’

Professor Nigel Vincent, Vice-President for Research and Higher Education at the British Academy said: 'The hard thing about learning a language is getting started. 1000 words can easily lead to 5000 or more, or indeed to 1000 words in a different language. The benefits for the nation if people are persuaded to take this step will be immense.'

Mike Kelly, Director of the Routes into Languages programme, said: ‘Learning 1000 words will be a vaccination against the tongue-tied monolingualism that holds us back in the global world. And it is a brilliant keep-fit exercise for the brain.’



  1. Speak to the Future is an initiative funded by the British Academy which aims to highlight the importance of languages, language learning and professional language activities for the UK. Targeting the public, media, government and policymakers, it intends to unify the nation around a strong public message that every language counts and that English alone is not enough. In addition to launching the 1000 words challenge, the campaign is working to develop national accreditation mechanisms for community languages and targeting Members of Parliament to raise awareness about the strategic value of languages.                 
  1. The 1000 words campaign has been developed in response to the British Academy research report Languages, the State of the Nation, which assessed the match of supply and demand for language skills. This found that the UK was suffering from a growing deficit in language skills and that, although language skills are needed at all levels in the workforce, not simply by an internationally-mobile élite, language courses are seldom thought relevant to learners with lower academic attainment. The survey may be downloaded from

The key messages of the 1000 words campaign are that UK society and economic prospects would be vastly transformed for the better if everyone had 1000 words of another language. Competence in languages is beneficial to all, but you don’t have to be fluent.

The campaign objectives are to create a badge of commitment to making this vision a reality and promote its widespread use amongst organisations and individuals committed to achieving the vision. In this way the campaign seeks to raise public awareness about the need for greater competence in languages and the value of all languages and to ground the challenge in what is realistic and measurable.

The 1000 words target represents a level roughly equivalent to A2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages.

  1. The British Academy is the UK’s national body which champions and supports the humanities and social sciences. In 2011, the British Academy launched a four-year programme to deepen awareness and demonstrate the importance of language learning. It is currently working with The Guardian raise the profile of language learning and showcase its importance for the UK's wellbeing.
  1. The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year teaching English, sharing the Arts and in education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A publically-funded grant-in-aid provides less than a quarter of our turnover which last year was £781m.  The rest we earn from English teaching, UK exams and services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with other institutions, brands and companies.  All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and creates prosperity and security for the UK and the countries we work in all around the world.

  1. Routes into Languages is a consortium of 80 universities across the UK, led by the Centre for Languages Linguistics and Area Studies at the University of Southampton. It works with schools to encourage more young people of all backgrounds to study languages at university. The programme is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and has recently been awarded funding for a new 3-year programme starting in August
  1. The European Day of Languages is a joint European Commission and Council of Europe initiative which has been celebrated on 26 September annually throughout Europe and beyond since 2001.  Lithuania, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, is hosting this year’s major international conference marking the occasion, entitled ‘Unity in Diversity: languages for mobility, jobs and active citizenship. 


Founder supporters:

Arsenal in the Community

Association for Language Learning (ALL)

Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)

Association of University Language Centres (AULC)

British Academy

British Council


Chartered Institute of Linguists

Comtec Translations

Curriculum Foundation

Education and Employers Task Force

English Pen

European Commission

German Embassy

Goethe Institut

Hotel La Place, London

Independent Schools’ Modern Languages Association (ISMLA)

Institut Français

Japan Foundation

Languages Company

Language Exchange Society

LLAS, University of Southampton

LSE Language Centre

National Association of Language Advisers (NALA)

National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC)

Network for Languages

Rosetta Stone

Routes into Languages

Spanish Embassy, Consejería de Educación

Swanwick Hall School, Derbyshire

Third Year Abroad

UK-German Connection

Universities Council of Modern Languages

Universities UK International Unit

University College London (UCL)

Whalley Range High School, Manchester

Alcantara Communications