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

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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?

Statistics

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

School

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 five.

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 Chinese and Urdu.

Mandarin 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 attitudes towards learning languages but the government is determined to try!

You voted 4. Total votes: 249
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Discussion

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

Comments

Lemony's picture
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Lemony 14 August, 2013 - 17:55

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)

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15 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 15 August, 2013 - 10:36

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)

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12 users have voted.
Lemony's picture
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Lemony 15 August, 2013 - 11:54

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.

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11 users have voted.
Toma English's picture
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Toma English 3 July, 2013 - 02:07

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

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13 users have voted.
whisperofrain's picture
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whisperofrain 30 June, 2013 - 03:59

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

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10 users have voted.
cotton_candy's picture
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cotton_candy 5 June, 2013 - 17:32

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?

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11 users have voted.
SARAH K's picture
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SARAH K 14 May, 2013 - 13:29

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.

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11 users have voted.
afiramadhan's picture
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afiramadhan 5 May, 2013 - 08:15

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 .

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14 users have voted.
MALINE's picture
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MALINE 13 April, 2013 - 21:54

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.

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9 users have voted.
Ninakishineva's picture
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Ninakishineva 10 April, 2013 - 20:56

- 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.

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9 users have voted.
dajana-n's picture
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dajana-n 4 April, 2013 - 14:17

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.

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11 users have voted.
fatmira n's picture
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fatmira n 1 April, 2013 - 12:05

I am from albania and i learn english
for me it is a importing thing to learn english and another languages.

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13 users have voted.
Natalija's picture
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Natalija 8 March, 2013 - 13:37

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.

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13 users have voted.
RehinaParker's picture
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RehinaParker 4 March, 2013 - 17:09

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

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12 users have voted.
Bora F's picture
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Bora F 9 March, 2013 - 21:25

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

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12 users have voted.
Gabby's picture
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Gabby 10 February, 2013 - 12:30

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.

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14 users have voted.
Just Era's picture
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Just Era 3 February, 2013 - 09:02

Hi. I am from albania.. In our school we learn english but we speak albanian..... English is more important for us. . . .

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8 users have voted.
shwii's picture
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shwii 25 January, 2013 - 12:56

Hi....
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.

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9 users have voted.
jenniferkim's picture
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jenniferkim 19 January, 2013 - 06:45

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.

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16 users have voted.
Hanna's picture
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Hanna 15 January, 2013 - 18:03

Hello!
Ukrainian is my native language. Also I speak Russian free. I want to know English very well)

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11 users have voted.
LiliyaM's picture
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LiliyaM 24 December, 2012 - 15:21

Hello))
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))

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11 users have voted.
edlira muca's picture
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edlira muca 18 December, 2012 - 09:22

Hey! Im Edlira from Albania.In our schools we learn English but we speak ALBANIAN. This text was very helpful to me.

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10 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 18 December, 2012 - 10:14

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)

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10 users have voted.
albina gjuzi's picture
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albina gjuzi 18 December, 2012 - 09:16

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.

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11 users have voted.
LadyLily5000's picture
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LadyLily5000 27 October, 2012 - 19:55

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.

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12 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 28 October, 2012 - 02:50

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)

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14 users have voted.
fatmira n's picture
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fatmira n 4 April, 2013 - 16:15

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 ....

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12 users have voted.
Sizar Torres's picture
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Sizar Torres 12 October, 2012 - 16:22

Hi..
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,

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12 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 9 September, 2012 - 16:27

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)

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12 users have voted.

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