Good news – MPs call for a commitment from all political parties to improve UK language skills


When will the UK’s language skills hit the headlines for the right reasons? The UK’s language skills – or lack of them – have been highlighted once again.

A report by an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) claims the number of students taking language degrees is at an all-time low – and that since the year 2000, 44 universities have removed some of their language courses completely.

Calling for a national recovery programme to boost the number of people with second languages, the report warns that without a ‘step change’ in our language ability the economy will suffer and the UK’s international reputation will be damaged. It’s pleasing to see, then, that the MPs are encouraging all political parties to make a commitment in their manifestos for next year’s general election to improve language skills across the nation.

Key considerations

Some of the key points from the report are:
• Only 9% of English 15-year-olds are competent in their first foreign language beyond a basic level
• High quality language learning should be available for all children from the age of seven
• Businesses and employers should also be involved in improving language skills

It’s clearly time for us to face facts: we need to take urgent action to address the lack of language skills in this country. If nothing changes we’re destined to fall behind our international peers when it comes to employability and competitiveness.

Even a basic knowledge of languages is better than nothing. A report published by the Education and Employers Taskforce in November 2011 highlighted that almost two-thirds of employers were interested in basic conversational ability.

Languages can be lucrative!

Several studies suggest that those with language abilities have higher wages and research in the UK has found that three-and-a-half years after graduation more language graduates are in work or study than their peers who studied Law, Architecture, Business or Computer Science – and earning higher average wages too.

Additionally, a language survey conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce has highlighted the value of investing in languages to businesses trading internationally. It placed exporters into four groups: opportunists (who tend to respond to approaches from overseas enquiries), developers (more prepared to adapt their products and services to overseas markets but who continue to communicate in English), adaptors (make more effort to adjust to overseas markets and have sales literature in foreign languages) and enablers (proactive in their export approach and place a great deal of importance on their staff having foreign language skills). The results? Only 33% of opportunists have a turnover above £1/2 million, increasing to 54% for developers, 67% for adapters and 77% for enablers. Evidence, indeed, that languages are good for business!

So, what languages should we be learning?

The British Council’s recent Languages For The Future report lists the top ten languages for us to learn in the UK, based on a number of economic factors such as current export trade, the needs of businesses, future government priorities and emerging high growth markets.

In order of importance the top ten languages are: Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese.

To succeed in an ever-competitive global market, isn’t it time for us all to place a greater importance on learning new languages? By doing this we will not only boost our own skills but set a shining example to the younger generation and help create the multi-lingual population our nation needs to compete in a global economy.

You’ve probably guessed by now that we’re incredibly enthusiastic about all things languages! So if you have a question or would like to know more about us, please get in touch on or call us on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681.

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