Recent statistics sparks many concerns and debates about the importance of foreign languages in the curriculum. Compared to our neighbouring countries, our statistics pale in comparison.

Bonjour! Hola! Ciao!

Those are just one of the few ways to greet someone in another language. But how many of us can actually speak another language?

According to, only 34% of UK residents can speak a foreign language. But how do we fare when we compare our statistics with other countries? If we compare our statistics with neighbouring countries, ours would pale in comparison. Recent reports highlight the fact that 97% of people from Sweden can speak another language and more than half the people in Luxembourg could speak at least 3 foreign languages. Our statistics are simply a cry of help!

Compared to other countries, why are UK residents less likely to speak another language? In 2015, it has been reported that 96% of pupils in the EU learnt English as part of their curriculum. Following from that statistic, many language experts have called out the flaws of our education system as foreign languages are not emphasised enough in the primary school curriculum. Recently, there has been a developed hypothesis called the ‘Critical Period Hypothesis”.  This hypothesis suggests that there is a period of growth from early childhood to adolescent where the full grasp of a language is achievable. This hypothesis claims that the reason why many students rarely achieve a native accent when studying a foreign language in secondary school is due to the fact that they have passed their ‘Critical Period’.

Some argue that the curriculum doesn’t need any changes as younger children are generally slower learners than adolescent learners. This is due to adolescent learners being more cognitively mature. However, studies show that learning a language from a young age helps develop an enthusiasm of language. Younger children could also make fast process due to their interest. This allows children to enjoy their lessons and encourages cultural awareness from a young age.

Many secondary students have also expressed their opinions on this issue. Imaan Ansar, who is currently a student, said: “I think it would be cool to study languages as a child!”. Many students wish that they were given the opportunity to study different languages as a child to better understand and connect with other cultures.

Furthermore, the current language deficit that the UK faces will cost the UK economy about £48 billion a year which equals to 3.5% of GDP. The Born Global Study has recently carried out research that proves that UK residents are more likely to be restricted from opportunities such as overseas work due to their limited ability to communicate. This means many graduates are losing out on the opportunity to gain international experience. In addition, there is a growing concern from UK employers about whether young people are equipped with enough linguistic skills to operate in a globalised economy. Up to 74% of the 500 business leaders surveyed feel dissatisfied with graduates international cultural awareness.

Some also argue that English is an international language and that it would be a “waste of resources” if languages were taught in primary schools. The British Council have already urged that more young people need to be learning languages so that the UK will remain globally competitive post-Brexit. Despite the fact that English is an international language, learning new languages also has many benefits such as it will help you connect with other cultures, increase your creativity and it’s a great skill to use when you travel! Being linguistically able is an admirable trait that employers look for. Language learning is good for economic growth and “can enhance the lives and future employability of children and young people".

Yet despite these benefits, fewer and fewer people are studying languages. As a fellow language student, this news is very upsetting to hear. Exam entries show that the popularity of languages GCSE have been declining since 2000 and is continuing to plummet. This is shown by the 2017 GCSE entries where languages had fallen by 7% overall.

Learning languages brings you so much more than just skills. In a world with so much hate, learning other languages can help you understand other cultures and will promote linguistic and cultural diversity.

What are your opinions on this?