With Christmas over-indulgence out of the way, thoughts are turning to resolutions – and for many, that means learning a new language, a survey suggests.
Around one in five (21%) are planning to make language learning a goal for 2018, according to a poll commissioned by the British Council.
It found that more than half (58%) of the 2,000 UK adults questioned believe that learning another language is a worthwhile resolution to make, while the same proportion agreed that it is more important than ever for people in the UK to make the effort to learn another language.
Nearly two thirds (64%) said that they have always wanted to speak another language fluently, while 56% agreed that they regret never making the effort to speak another language fluently.
And while 16% said they can speak a foreign language to a high standard, and a third (33%) said they are able to hold a basic conversation, nearly half (45%) admitted that they are embarrassed by the level of their foreign language skills.
The survey also asked which language people would most like to learn, with Spanish the most popular answer, followed French and then Italian.
Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council, said: “It’s fantastic that many of us hope to brush up on our language skills in 2018. In particular, the languages we are most keen to learn are some of the languages the UK needs most.
“But the country is still facing a languages deficit. If we are to remain globally competitive post-Brexit, we need more people who can speak languages.
“Learning other languages not only gives you an understanding of other cultures but is good for business, for life and for well-being too. The New Year is the perfect time to get started.”
A recent British Council report identified Spanish as the top language the UK will need after Brexit, followed by Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German – based on a range of economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors.
The report called for “a bold new policy” to improve foreign language learning, and suggested that languages be given the same priority as maths and science in schools
Official figures have shown a continued drop-off in French and German A-level entries this summer, while the numbers taking Spanish rose slightly. There were increases in entries for a number of other foreign languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Italian.
At GCSE, there was a 9.9% fall in entries for French this year, compared with last year, with numbers plummeting by more than a quarter (down 26.5%) since 2010, while German saw a 13.2% fall compared with last year, and the numbers are down by more than a third (38%), since 2010.
:: The Populus online poll questioned 2,109 UK adults between December 15-17.