Thursday 15 August 2019

Number of pupils taking languages has remained stable, but against background of marked decline over past 20 years.

Total proportion of pupils taking three main languages combined – French, Spanish, German – is just 2.5 per cent, compared to 11.5 per cent for maths, the most popular A level.

Results highlight a gender divide, with a lower proportion of boys taking languages than girls:

  • Spanish: 0.8 per cent male; 1.3 per cent female
  • French: 0.7 per cent male; 1.3 per cent female
  • German: 0.3 per cent male; 0.4 per cent female

Vicky Gough, British Council schools advisor, said: “It’s encouraging that the number of pupils taking languages this year has remained stable, but this is against the background of a marked decline over the past 20 years. It’s clear that we need to help more young people understand the value of learning a foreign language.

For the first time, Spanish has overtaken French. British Council research shows that Spanish is the most important language in terms of the UK’s future prosperity, security and global influence. However, other languages – including French and German – are also important, and we need more pupils to continue learning a range of different languages.

More work needs to be done to understand why fewer boys see the advantage of learning languages.

Languages are important to the UK because they underpin our relationships with other countries, and they are important to our pupils because they open doors to new people, places and cultures.”

Notes to Editor

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