Britons Express Regret Over Lack of Language Skills, Call for Compulsory Language Education

Survey reveals Britons’ desire for languages to be taught to GCSE level again

A recent survey conducted by YouGov has shed light on the growing regret among Britons over their lack of foreign language skills. The study found that a significant number of adults in the UK wish they had paid more attention to their language lessons in school and believe that languages should once again be made compulsory. With only a small percentage of adults able to hold a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue, the survey highlights the need for a renewed focus on language education.

The Decline of Language Learning

Foreign language GCSEs became optional in most schools in England two decades ago, leading to a significant decline in the number of students studying languages. According to the survey, more than a third of respondents expressed their disappointment at not being able to study their preferred language in school. The removal of compulsory language education has resulted in a lack of proficiency among adults, leaving many feeling ashamed of their inability to communicate in another language.

The Call for Compulsory Language Education

The survey revealed a strong consensus among respondents that studying a modern language should be compulsory in both primary and secondary schools. Approximately 64% of respondents believed that language education should be mandatory in primary school, while 71% felt the same about secondary school. The British Academy has also called for a statutory entitlement, advocating for the right to learn a language for pupils at every stage of their education from the age of five to 18.

The Languages Gateway Initiative

To address the growing demand for language learning, the British Academy has launched the Languages Gateway, an online resource aimed at increasing access to language education for people of all ages in the UK. The initiative seeks to broaden the opportunities for language learning beyond the traditional school environment, allowing individuals to explore and develop their language skills at their own pace.

Language Skills in Europe

Comparatively, the language skills of Britain’s European neighbors vary significantly. According to Euronews Culture, approximately 65% of the continent’s population can speak at least one language other than their native tongue. However, in countries where English is the native language, such as Ireland, only 50% of the population speaks another language. Nordic countries, on the other hand, excel in bilingualism, while Southern European countries face more challenges in this regard.

The Importance of Early Language Learning

Experts agree that the earlier one learns a second language, the easier it is to master. Bilingualism can be achieved either through being born into a bilingual family or through learning a second language at school. The survey results underscore the need for language education to begin at an early age, enabling children to develop strong language skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

The YouGov survey has highlighted the widespread regret among Britons regarding their lack of foreign language skills. The call for compulsory language education, as well as the launch of the Languages Gateway initiative, demonstrates a growing recognition of the importance of language learning in today’s globalized world. As the UK looks to strengthen its international relationships post-Brexit, investing in language education from an early age will not only enhance communication abilities but also foster cultural understanding and open doors to new opportunities.