Language Rich Europe: Britain lags behind despite advantages

26 Jun 2012

The British Council-led Language Rich Europe (LRE) consortium has released findings from research analysing languages throughout Europe. It shows that England has many linguistic advantages – phenomenal diversity, an international language, innovative teaching and a commitment to multilingualism. But it lags behind its partners in both provision and competence. There is still a view that English is enough, and that other languages are “important but not essential”.

Key findings in the England study include:

  • Over a million school age children have another language besides English, but we do not seem to value this “linguistic capital”.
  • There is great enthusiasm for learning a language from an early age, but provision is still less than in most European countries.
  • More learners abandon language learning at 14 than in any other of the countries surveyed; very few continue with a language after 16.
  • Advanced language learning is a class issue in England – the private sector and selective schools dominate at “A” level and despite brilliant exceptions “vocational” language learning is minimal.
  • Business and employers generally need languages; many say this, but very few actively promote them.
  • Our vibrant cities are effectively multicultural and multilingual and some lead the way in Europe.

The findings are being launched in London on 28 June at the London School of Economics at an event being supported by Speak to the future. Interested parties are being encouraged to air their views on Twitter in advance of and during the event.

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