It will be a New Year and new ‘vous’ for many Britons in 2018, according to a new poll released by the British Council today.
Amongst 2,000 UK adults surveyed, one in five said they plan to make learning another language their New Year’s resolution. One in three intends to try and learn at least some phrases in another language in the year ahead.
And for those keen to take the linguistic plunge, Spanish – which recent research has highlighted as the most vital language to the UK post-Brexit – was the most popular choice amongst potential learners. It was followed by French, Italian, German and Japanese.
But with 64 per cent of those surveyed saying they’ve always wanted to speak another language fluently - and 56 per cent stating that they regret never having made the effort to do so - the British Council is urging even more of us to think about the importance of languages and to give one a go in 2018.
Despite more than half (58 per cent) of those questioned thinking it’s more important than ever for people in the UK to learn another language, only a third said they can currently hold a basic conversation in one. Almost half (45 per cent) admitted to being embarrassed by the level of their language skills.
Commenting on the results, Vicky Gough Schools Adviser at the British Council, said: “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.
“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.”
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 per cent 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 per cent 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.
The new poll, carried out by Populus was commissioned by the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. The survey is part of its work to build relationships for the UK around the world through language, culture and education.
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. Schools can also get ideas about how to make more time for language learning on the British Council’s Schools Online site.
Finally, 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. These can be used alone or alongside traditional classes.