Read about language learning in the UK and then do the exercises.


How many languages can you speak? British people are generally not very good language learners. In a recent survey, 62% of the population only speak English! 

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably studying English. Maybe you speak a couple of other languages too. What are the British like when it comes to learning languages?


Brits are famous for not speaking foreign languages. According to a survey published by the European Commission, this bad reputation is totally justified. The results of the survey state that the British are officially the worst language learners in Europe! Let’s look at some statistics:

  • 62% of people surveyed can’t speak any other language apart from English.
  • 38% of Britons speak at least one foreign language, 18% speak two and only 6% of the population speak three or more.
  • The European Union average showed that 56% speak at least one foreign language, 28% speak at least two and 11% speak three or more. The survey confirmed that English was the most widely-spoken foreign language. 51% of EU citizens can have a conversation in English.


Learning a foreign language is not a popular option at school in Britain. In UK schools it is common for children to start studying a foreign language at the age of 11 and many students give up languages completely at 14. So why don’t young people continue with languages at school? Research suggests that students think that it is more difficult to get good grades in languages than in other subjects such as science or history. The British government is now looking at different ways to improve language learning at school. One idea is to start much younger; there are plans to introduce foreign languages from the age of 5.

Which languages?

Another plan is to give school children more choice. The languages traditionally studied in British schools have been French, Spanish and German. Now the government is encouraging teachers to expand the range of languages taught to include Arabic, Mandarin and Urdu.

Mandarin Chinese is predicted to become the second most popular foreign language learned in UK schools. It is already studied by more children than German or Russian. Only French and Spanish are more popular. Gareth from Wales says 'I am learning Chinese, and find it fun.' Another student, Thomas from London, says 'Just telling people that I learn Mandarin impresses people. Even having a very basic level gives you an advantage.' Brighton College has become the first independent school to make Mandarin a compulsory foreign language. Its headmaster Richard Cairns said, 'One of my key tasks is to make sure pupils are equipped for the realities of the 21st century. One of those realities is that China has the fastest-growing economy in the world.'

It may be an ambitious task to change the Brits’ attitude to learning languages but the government is determined to try!

Total votes: 715

How many languages can you speak? Do you like learning English? How important is it to you to speak foreign languages?


Natalija's picture

I am from Serbia and Serbian is my mother tongue. In school I learn English and French and I find it interesting and amusing. I have been studying English for 10 years in school, since the first grade and I am very good at English, but since last year, I have been learning it very hard, because I want to study at Cambridge, therefore I need excellent language skills. French is also one of the my favorite languages, I speak it very fluently and I won the first place at the competition at French two years ago. Learning foreign languages is my hobby and I find it very valuable for the life. Words link and get people together. A year ago, I have started to learn Turkish and I know it very good. I can better understand to talking, but I am improving my conversation skills every day. Last week I have started to learn Arabic and I find it very, very interesting. It is very hard, esp the way of writing, but I really like it and I hope to overcome all the difficulties. I know Spanish almost as well as mother tongue, 'cause I have been learning it since I was 5 years old. I'd like to speak Russian, but I'll have to postpone it for the next year. I am really excited about learning languages and I am looking forward to learn a new language.

74 users have voted.
RehinaParker's picture

I speak albanian and english and little of italian language,,,,, i think that learning foreing language its important in our life and in our future

69 users have voted.
Bora F's picture

I speak english,italian,and a little german ...i think that foreing languages are really important expecialy english....

72 users have voted.
Gabby's picture

Hello! I'm from Brazil and in our schools we learn English and Spanish as foreign languages. English is the most important comercial language and Spanish is the nearest language of us. I like learning languages although it's a little difficult. But is very hard for me learn two or more languages simultaneously, so I'm only studying English now.

60 users have voted.
shwii's picture

I am salma from Egypt.I speak Arabic as my native language.I am also studying english as 2nd language.I enjoy speaking English very much.

85 users have voted.
jenniferkim's picture

I can speak Korean and English. I think learning English is fun but sometimes it's kind of boring.
I learned Bahasa Malayu and Mandarin but I'm not really good at it.
I want to learn French too. I think the French pronounciation beautiful and it sounds like singing.
I'm learning it myself a little bit by myself at home but the pronounciation is really hard.
I think learning foreign language is very important.

102 users have voted.
LiliyaM's picture

I can speak three lenguages:Ukrainian,Russian and English,but just a little((Ukrainian is my native lenguage)I love Ukrainian so much)
In my school we learn Ukrainian,Russian.First part of our class learn English,and second part learn German. And I ,of course,learn English)At the holidays i learn Italian with my the best friend)I love this very very very and very much)
I think,if you know foreign lenguage you can open all world for you)
Thank you so much for this very interesting article))

91 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture

Hi! Thanks for your recent comments! Do you learn any other languages in your school, apart from English (and Albanian)? Are you interested in starting to learn an entirely new language?

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

97 users have voted.
albina gjuzi's picture

Hi! Im Albina from Albania.The most of the time I speak Albanian but in school we speak English too.I think English is an important language to connect with people of other countries.

94 users have voted.
LadyLily5000's picture

I'm from Montenegro so I can speak a lot of the South Slovenian languages including Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian. At school I'm learning German and English of course. I think it's important to learn languages 'cause we will need them wherever we go. I'd like to learn Japanese. It sounds cool.

102 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture

Wow, that's really impressive! So, what language do you use with your family, your friends and in your school? Thanks for your interesting comments!

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

80 users have voted.
fatmira n's picture

hi,I am from albania.In my family i speak albanian excpect with my sister where i speak english.
my friends i speak albanian and in my school i speak albanian ....

53 users have voted.
Sizar Torres's picture

well I can speak Kurdish, I can understand 70% of Arabic and I can speak in formal Arabic, I can speak in English just a little bit.
I love French , Spanish , Japanese and many other languages but unfortunately here we don't have courses for such languages, and I can't learn a new language just by using Enternet.I wish I can learn these languages one day,

72 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture

Hello everyone! There are so many interesting languages mentioned in your messages: Arabic, Spanish, Kazakh, Hakka, Malay... It would be nice to be able to speak them all, wouldn't it?

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

92 users have voted.
I LOVE TAIWAN's picture

I'm Taiwanese.We also say Chinese.But it is different from China.We say"Traditional Chinese".I think it is more diffucult from Simplified Chinese.Also I can say Taiwanese and a little Hakka.I love to learn a new language.I hope I can learn the Japanese and Spanish one day~:)))

67 users have voted.
Starlette Lady's picture

I am Ukrainian and I know Ukrainian and Russian very well. I'm also good at English and learn German at school. I plan to take French this year and maybe in the future I will learn Japanese or Chinese or Spanish (in fact, I'd love to learn all of them!)

73 users have voted.
AliceHXY's picture

I'm Chinese so I can speak Mandarin Chinese well.I also speak Cantonese with my family.At school we all learn English,it's indeed a useful language all over the world.Learning languages is a hobby of mine.I learn French by myself because I may study in France in the future.Sometimes I try to learn Malay language cause I like it.I enjoy learning foreign languages because I love literature,I want to read more classics and understand them better,and even translate them into Chinese.
The language environment in China is not as well as that in Europe I think.Most Chinese people can only speak Chinese(not always Mandarin but many dialects like Cantonese and Hokkien),many Minority people only speak their own language like Tibetian and Uygur language(of course,many young people can speak Mandarin and even English now).It's not very easy for people here to learn to speak a foreign language fluently and accurately because they just stay here and communicate with Chinese.But lots of people are trying to learn English because there are more and more foreign friends here in our country,and we are glad to greet them.Being able to undertand and use English is almost an essential skill for the young now.Knowing a useful foreign language well,we can associate with foreigners directly and learn more from them.It's also interesting to understand different types of cultures,and respect each of them.

96 users have voted.
bookworm's picture

I can speak russian, turkish, english and I'm learning chinese. I love learning english as well as other languages. It is very important for me to speak foreign languages, because it's how we communicate with other people. By knowing several languages, we can make a lot of foreign friends, and meet knew people. It also increases your level of education and results in having a well-paid job.

95 users have voted.
Edelweiss's picture

I am Hungarian, but I live in Romania, so I have to learn Romanian. In the school we have English and German lessons too. I learn French at home. I love learning languages and I think is very important.

89 users have voted.
Sophochka's picture

I speak Ukrainian and Russian free, English well. Also I can understand Polish. I study Spanish as well, and in future I plan to study Japanese or Chinese.

93 users have voted.
Zainab's picture

I'm Bahraini and I can speak Arabic and English very well. I learn English at the British Council Bahrain. I have been there for more than six years and I really enjoy it. When I was younger I always wanted to learn French, but my mum said it's not important honey ! Just focus on your English !

87 users have voted.
vena's picture

i am a chinese and i am an english major. besides engliah and chinese,i also wanna learn german .because i wanna go there .anyone can give me some advice?thanks!

83 users have voted.
Sweet Raspberry's picture

I can speak portuguese very well! It's my mother language!
I also can understand spanish, it's very similar!
Well, I'm trying learn english, I really want do to another country and study... It's my big dream.
Others languages like italian, french and german I know a few words.
Japanese only one ahaha (yeah, it's difficult guys!, but nice!)

97 users have voted.