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English Want More Languages 2006-09-27

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Intolerance, Statistics.

‘The Higher Education Funding Council for England’ is to spend 4.5 million GBP on a drive to encourage more students to take up languages, after a drop in undergraduate numbers.


  • Manchester, London and Edinburgh have the most foreign-language speakers;
  • More women than men speak a second language;
  • Women tend to speak one language to a higher level, while men speak a smattering of several languages. 

Meanwhile, ministers are said to be reconsidering their decision to drop compulsory language lessons for England’s GCSE students after the numbers of pupils taking qualifications in French and German plummeted.

So just why are we so bad at learning another lingo? And do the English really deserve their bad image abroad?

Well, yes, according to figures compiled by ‘The European Union’.

When it comes to speaking a second language, the English is nearly always bottom of the class.

According to figures based on 2005 research for EU countries, only Hungary lags behind the English when it comes to speaking another language.

Just 30 per cent of English speak a second language — compared with 99 per cent of Luxembourgers; 91 per cent of Dutch; 88 per cent of Danish and 45 per cent of French.

49 per cent of office workers know how to say ‘How are you?’ in French
33 per cent could ask for the bill in Spanish
19 per cent know the word for airport in Spanish
9 per cent can count above 20 in another language
* Office Angels research of 1 500 office workers, 2005

Experts blame a misplaced belief that ‘everyone else’ speaks English, while in the past — as an island-nation — we have not been exposed to other languages like countries with land borders.

‘Small world’

But The Director of the National Centre for Learning Languages (Cilt) Ms.Isabella Moore said times had changed; the world is getting smaller:

‘Today’s economy is global and more and more jobs have an international dimension.

‘Unless our young people are equipped with the skills they need for international communication in the 21st Century we will be a poor player on the world stage,’ she said.

‘The idea that English is enough is looking increasingly old-fashioned and arrogant — and it doesn’t lead to good business.’

Indeed, according to recruitment agency ‘Office Angels’, for 53 per cent of employers a second language can be the difference between offering a job and not.

The languages they are most looking for are French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and, increasingly, Chinese.

‘We have seen a sharp rise in employers asking for people who have language skills over the last five years,’ said Managing Director Mr.Paul Jacobs.

‘We are increasingly finding that even people with a second language at a basic level have better prospects in some industries working at home and abroad than those without,’ he said.

But problems highlighted have been the lack of language provision in schools and elsewhere over the years.

Children here are giving the option of learning their first language in the curriculum by 11 — compared with 7-years old in Sweden and Norway.

And while more than 70 per cent of English people say they studied languages at school, nearly all admit to ‘British Reserve’: being unwilling to practise their skill and letting their language lapse.


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