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!

You voted 3. Total votes: 434

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


bagheri's picture

i can't speak english well but i understand texts that are written in english partly.i am a student of medicin therfore i have to learn it,because in medicine your knowledge must be update.

2 users have voted.
Tina - Coordinator's picture

Hi bagheri
Thanks for your comments on LearnEnglish Teens. This website is especially for teenagers aged 13-17 years old but it sounds like you are older than that. You are welcome to keep on using LearnEnglish Teens but if you are over 17, please do NOT post any more comments as we must keep this strictly for teenagers to interact with each other. You are welcome to join our LearnEnglish page for adults and post comments there:
Best wishes, Tina (LearnEnglish Teen Team)

1 user has voted.
polyrrr's picture

Hi, I'm from Russia. I speak two languages: Russian and English. Now I'm improving my English and learning another language - German, but I want to study other foreign languages, too. In my opinion, speaking foreign language gives a lot of advantages, so it's very important for me.

5 users have voted.
NMemmedova's picture

Hellooo...I am from Azerbaijan...We speak Azerbaijan language..This is my native language...
I am EAMP STUDENT..I go to ENGLISH COURSE...Nice too meet you :)

10 users have voted.
dzeni's picture

I can speak three foreign languages: English, Italian and Russian. I like learning English. I think it is very important to know other languages. Then is all easy: we can travel and have good time, we can talk with people around the world, we can listen and understand foreign music, read books on foreign language...Wherever you go you need it.

12 users have voted.
cklj's picture

I'm from Macedonia, so Macedonian is my mother language. I also speak English, French and Serbian, because Macedonian and Serbian language have very in common and they are from same language group. I understand Spanish a little too, because of one interesting Spanish series that was showing in my country .
I love learning English. I started learning English when I was 8. Now I'm 14 and I'm still enjoying while learning English. It's one of my favourite languages and I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to speak English with a real British accent.
I love my language, but I also love learning new languages, new things and things about new cultures. In the future I'd like to learn to speak Spanish and Turkish maybe. It's very important for me to speak foreign languages, because that skill makes me feel special, smart and powerful in the same time.

16 users have voted.
justcricketforme's picture

Hi. I can speak Urdu, Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, English, Persian (a bit) and Chinese (still learninng). I can understand Pashto but not speak it. I can also understand other local and provincial languages of Pakistan. In our school, we have to speak English all day except for in our Urdu period. Most of the peopl here have difficulty speaking it in school all the time. Our school gives the ones who speak English always a badge and if you keep ot for at least a week, at the end of the year, with your result, you get a personal gift from our English teacher. It encourages a lot of people to speak English. I got a really awesome pen and a nice wallet since I was the "Language Master" for three months and was removed by the teacher to give others a chance not because of me not speaking English. Yes, I love learning English and I also love the language. It is fun learning and speaking forgien languages for they help us in learning about the country and culture.

16 users have voted.
Lemony's picture

Hi! I'm from Russia and my native language is Russian. Learning English gives me a great pleasure. It is chance to read the books, written by forign authors, listen the music and understand it! I'm delighted by culture of Great Britan, i can even say that i kneel before it. My aim is not to only communicate, but comrehend the huge world of English.
Also, i learn French, but it isn't the only love of my life)

19 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture

Hi Lemony! I'm glad to read your message and know you're so enthusiastic about English. Maybe you would enjoy some kind of job where you could speak different languages? I hope you enjoy learning here on this website too.
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

13 users have voted.
Lemony's picture

I want to be an interpriter, sometimes i dreamed about my future profession. Life of interpriter is amazing, and i'll try to become the one of them. I'm very glad i found this website, it is good training of brain and nobody won't laugh about my mistakes.

21 users have voted.
Toma English's picture

I Speak Large Arabic ,, medium English , Small French :D ,, I Love English a lot so I try to improve it as possible ,, It's important to learn different languages so if I traveled around the world I could speak easily with any one ,, I also know very little about Spanish , Italian and Japanese

20 users have voted.
whisperofrain's picture

Hi, i am from Syria, so of course i speak arabic fluently , a little English and French. i live in France now so i want to improve my french language

21 users have voted.
cotton_candy's picture

Hey! I'm from Vietnam but I was born in Poland and now I'm living here. Although I was born in Poland , I came to Vietnam when I was 1years old and came back to Poland when I turned 5years old. I started to learn Vietnamese when I started to talk. When I came to Poland , I went to a Polish school and learned Polish. I started to learn English when I was in 2nd grade but not so much . We have twice lessons a week and I didn't have anyone to communicate with. When I was about nine years old , I went to a International American School , where I learned English. After that , I learned German when I was about 10-11 years old. Now I'm 13 years old. My English skills are pretty good but my vocabulary is still very poor. MY Polish vocabulary is ok but grammar very bad. I'm not good at german because I don't have an German accent , I don't communicate with others but if a german person talk to me i would understand 5-10% depends what is the person saying. I know how to read in Vietnamese , i do spelling mistakes a lot >_< Next year we will learn French -,- which I don't like because of the accent. I would like to learn JAppanese, Chinese or Korean . My english teacher said that I'm VIetnamese so it's easy for me to learn Chinese :) But I think I must learn good those 3-4 languages :D I don't really think I will need VIetnamese because in my future I won't work in Vietnam ,however, no one knows about my future :) Pls give me a advice how many languages should I learn ? Which of the languages that I learn should I learn really REALLY fluently ? Which of the languges should I learn: Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Korean (choose 2-3) ? Is that ok for a 13 years old girl to learn that many languages or I should learn more?

22 users have voted.
SARAH K's picture

In Albania people are very interested in learning languages because we have been an isolated country and people here are very curious to know more about the culture and history of other countries, and there is no a better way to do this than learning a foreign language.
i speak English and Italian.

19 users have voted.
afiramadhan's picture

Hi, I'm from Indonesia. I can speak Indonesian (of course) and start to speak in English Although my english speaking skill wasn't as good as others . But in the future, I want to learn French language, because i'm interesting when I watched a france TV program. But of course I love learning english, because English is important to us for the future .

19 users have voted.
MALINE's picture

I only speak Spanish and English and I´d like to learn chinese too,I love learning languages so I can Express my ideas to others and learn from other countries.

39 users have voted.
Ninakishineva's picture

- well hello everyone! I'm from macedonia. we in our schools are learning english and german. english is very important for all people to find a job to speak with some stranger... for 2 months i will go in UK so i plained to visit all important places. Also i know to speak serbian spanish german english a little bit turkish and bulgarian.

31 users have voted.
dajana-n's picture

I speak three languages.They are ALBANIAN,ENGLISH and SPANISH.I like very much to learning english becouse I think that english is the most impotant language in the world.

28 users have voted.
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.

22 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

26 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....

42 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.

30 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.

66 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.

77 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))

75 users have voted.