Survey highlights foreign language skills are rare

Britain’s poor foreign language skills could damage the country’s future global prosperity, it has been claimed.

The British Council has called for schools and businesses to place more emphasis on languages, after conducting a poll which revealed the nation’s ineptitude at speaking them.

According to, the poll indicated that only a quarter of Brits can hold a conversation in any of the ten languages judged to be the most important to future trade.

Speaking to, British Council director of strategy John Worne explained why this was a problem which needed fixing.

He said: “If we don’t act to tackle this shortfall, we’ll lose out both economically and culturally. Schools have their job to do, but it’s also a problem of complacency, confidence and culture – which policy makers, businesses, parents and everyone else in the UK can help to fix.”

Researchers from the British Council used several economic, political and cultural indicators to rank the importance of these languages.   

Spanish was cited as the most important language for Brits to learn, followed by Arabic, French, Mandarin, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese.    

Just 15 per cent of the survey’s respondents could hold a conversation in French. German (six per cent), Spanish (four per cent) and Italian (two per cent) were also the next most commonly spoken languages. Only one per cent or less of those questioned could hold a conversation in any other languages in the top ten. 

by Joe Elvin on November 21, 2013

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