language learning is in decline

UK: Language Learning is in Decline because of Anti-European Sentiment

We already learned that in the UK language learning is in decline and that only 9% of 15-year-olds in the UK are competent in the first foreign language they learn in school after seven years, whereas other European students at the same age show much higher competency, like 82% in Sweden.

Back in August the Guardian shared some data on British teens and their growing reluctance to learn foreign languages but their parents aren’t any better. A survey by travel site TripAdvisor found that Britons are worst in the EU when it comes to speaking the language of the country they are visiting for vacation.

Now a new report found that the A-level entries for French and German fell by 50% between 1996 and 2012. According to Kathryn Board, co-author of the report, the anti-European rhetoric in the media and by politicians is not helping to make language learning more appealing in a country that already is known for not recognizing the value of speaking another language than English.

While German and French are in sharp decline, Spanish is on the rise, probably based on the perception that Spanish as global language is more widely spoken and therefore a more useful skill to have.

Apparently people in the UK think that learning German and French languages is not useful anymore although the exact opposite is the truth. Earlier this year the 2012 Education and Skills survey by Pearson and the CBI listed German as first (50%) and French as second (49%) desired language a future employee should be able to speak. Spanish is ranked third place with 37%.

Language specialist Teresa Tinsley states in the report published by the CfBT Education Trust that

“All the information shows that the languages that are most needed in the workplace are French and German and I think there is an erroneous perception that because Spanish is a global language, it is therefore going to be more useful – but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the structure of our economy and the trading links that we have. I think that the rhetoric and the discourse around Europe and the anti-European discourse is not helpful for languages.”


  • Pingback: Sunday Review: Chegg IPO, Kindertown sold, Language Courses Freefall()

  • British

    What a load of tosh. Language learning in the UK is NOT in decline because of “anti-European sentiment”. There is such a thing as anti-EU opinion. The EU is not Europe itself, it is a political construct. Many British people do not have a problem with Europe. They are against the EU.

    The reason that language learning is in decline is because the standard of language teaching in a lot of British schools being appalling. This means that for a lot of British people, if they want to learn a foreign language, they are on their own. They have to do it on their own, in their own time and at their own expense.