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New report highlights need for post-Brexit focus on learning languages

14/11/2017 Joanna

The UK's departure from the European Union will create a pressing need for more emphasis on learning modern languages in schools, according to the British Council.

Analysis from the organisation has shed light on the fact that international awareness and skills will become more vital than ever post-Brexit, meaning UK schools will need to play a key role in turning around the current languages deficit.

Based on a consideration of economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German have been highlighted as the five most-needed language, significantly ahead of Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian.

However, at present, only 14 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds can hold a basic conversation in French, followed by eight per cent for German, seven per cent for Spanish, and two per cent each for Mandarin and Arabic. Indeed, only one-third of Britons are able to converse in another language besides their mother tongue.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the number of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland taking GCSE language exams dropped by 7.3 per cent in the past year, with a one per cent drop at A level.

As such, the British Council has called for languages to be prioritised alongside STEM subjects in schools, and for more young people in the UK to be helped to develop international skills through overseas links and opportunities to work and study abroad.

Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council, said: "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."

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