Brits urged to make language learning their New Year resolution

Actor and broadcaster Larry Lamb
Actor and broadcaster Larry Lamb

The British Council has launched a campaign calling on people in the UK to make learning a foreign language their New Year’s resolution for 2016.

Backed by actor and broadcaster Larry Lamb, the #LearnALanguage drive aims to inspire more Brits to think about the importance of learning a language and to take one up in 2016.

Tackling just a phrase a day could see people greatly improve their language skills with 1000 words recognised as an achievable number that would allow a speaker to hold a simple conversation in another language. And with a recent British Council survey highlighting that more than half of the UK population regret losing the language skills that they acquired during their school days, it seems that many of us would indeed like to brush up our lost language skills – in fact, 42 per cent of those surveyed said that they would be keen to revisit a language that they studied at school.

The call comes as exam entries for languages at GCSE and A-level fell once again in 2015 with 100,000 fewer GCSE language exams taken this year compared to a decade ago. Higher Education Statistics Agency data released in 2015 also showed that entries to modern foreign language degree courses had dropped by 16 per cent since 2007/08.

These are worrying trends given that employers are crying out for language skills and the UK’s current lack of them is estimated to be costing the country tens of billions of pounds.

Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council, said: “The UK is currently facing a shortfall in people who can speak foreign languages. And with lots of free and innovative ways to get started, there has never been a better time to take up a new language. More than that, the benefits of learning one are huge – from boosting job prospects to acquiring the ability to understand and better connect with another culture. If the UK is to remain competitive on the international stage, we need far more of us to develop our language skills.”

The campaign has also received backing from actor and broadcaster Larry Lamb who speaks fluent French and German, as well as some Spanish and Italian.

He said: “Languages, for me, are about opening the world up. It gives you another soul, it gives you another person. My teacher, Miss Smith, started to teach us French. From learning French, I learnt German, from being in Germany I found out about amateur theatre and here I am today, talking to you about learning languages having had a career that’s gone on for 40 years now.”

As part of the #LearnALanguage campaign, the British Council has produced a series of language learning videos with practical hints and tips to help people get started on their language learning journey in 2016. The British Council’s recent ‘A World of Experience’ study – published in December 2015 – also highlighted how international experience and language skills are hugely beneficial to individuals.