Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, French and German are the languages the UK will need most once the UK leaves the European Union, a new research has revealed. According to the report, only a third of Britons can hold a conversation in another language with language learning in UK schools facing a “difficult climate”.
The ‘Languages for the Future’ report, released by the British Council today, says now is the moment to initiate a ‘bold new policy’ to improve language learning in the UK.
“Languages for the Future” identifies these as the top five languages for the UK’s prosperity once the country leaves the European Union, based on extensive analysis of economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors. The top five are significantly ahead of the next five languages in the ranking – Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian.
The new analysis argues that for the UK to succeed post-Brexit, international awareness and skills - such as the ability to connect with people globally beyond English - have become more vital than ever. However, the UK is currently facing a languages deficit.
Language learning in schools is also facing a difficult climate. Official figures from the Joint Council for Qualifications highlight a 7.3 percent drop in the number of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland taking GCSE language exams in the past year – and a 1 percent drop at A Level.
Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council, said languages are invaluable for a generation growing up in an increasingly connected world.
“If the UK is to be truly global post-Brexit, languages must become a national priority. There are few more important languages for the UK’s future prosperity than Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German,” said Gough.
“At a time when global connections matter more than ever, it is worrying that the UK is facing a languages deficit. We cannot afford the apathy around the need for languages to continue and must champion these skills. If we don’t act to tackle this shortfall, we’re set to lose out both economically and culturally,” he said.
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.