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Languages for the Future

Languages for the Future looks at the supply and demand for languages in the upcoming years given the current changes. This updates the 2013 British Council report which provided the first systematic analysis of the UK's language needs and identifies the languages which will be of crucial importance for the UK's future prosperity, security and influence. 

The same five languages, Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic and German were top of the table as were in the 2013 report. These appear well ahead of other languages in the report. Polish, Malay, Hindi and other Indian languages score highly and it was suggested that these may grow in importance in the future. 

However, some of these languages reported to be needed the most only have marginal places in UK educational systems. The UK's language deficit remains a threat to the overall international competitiveness, influence and standing in the world, as well as citizens' ability to play a meaningful role in the global economy. 

The following recommendations were put forward:

  • The initiation of a bold, new, cross-governmental and cross-party policy to improve foreign language learning
  • Language skills to form an integral part of the strategic review of skills that the UK will need post-Brexit
  • Government and business organisations to provide better advice to companies on using and managing language skills
  • Governments to prioritise the teaching of the top five languages identified in the report
  • Schools to prioritise language learning alongside science, technology, engineering and maths subjects
  • Education departments and regulators to work together to set and ensure adherence to minimum time requirements for language teaching
  • Education providers consider the country's future need for international capacity post-Brexit, and specialist expertise in languages and cultures in the university sector is given strategic protection
  • Further and higher education providers develop, and incentivise take-up of, the offer of languages as additional modules or integrated units within vocational and degree courses
  • Individuals consider the need for, and benefit of, language learning
  • UK government negotiators protect and prioritise education exchange programmes in EU exit negotiations
  • The governments to appoint a Cabinet-level language champion. 

Read the full report here