Thursday 14 February 2019


  • Poll of 2000 adults in the UK finds 56 per cent can say ‘I love you’ in a foreign language (60% in Northern Ireland);
  • Italian is considered the most romantic language, followed by French (23%) and Spanish (11%);
  • Men say French is the most romantic language, whereas women prefer Italian;
  • 5 per cent surveyed think Irish is the most romantic language, compared to Welsh (3%) and Scottish Gaelic (2%); 
  • 47 per cent believe an additional language skill is attractive in a potential romantic partner (56% in Northern Ireland);
  • 34 per cent would consider learning a foreign language if it might lead to a romantic relationship (31% in Northern Ireland)

Nearly half (47%) of all people in the UK (Northern Ireland: 56%) find the ability to speak a foreign language attractive in a partner, according to a survey of 2000 adults published today (February 14) by the British Council.

Respondents demonstrated the range of their romantic speech, with 56 per cent able to say ‘I love you’ in a foreign language (NI: 60%), although, only 11 per cent (NI: 15%) could say the phrase which arguably has an instrumental role in prompting those three little words, ‘Will you go out with me?’ in a language other than English.        

The poll also revealed the linguistic lengths people in the UK are prepared to go through for love. Just over a third (34%) of respondents would contemplate picking up another language if it might result in romance (NI: 31%).

The survey found that men ranked French as the most romantic language, while women preferred Italian. 

British Council Schools Advisor Vicky Gough said: “Love, romance and relationships are really good reasons to learn a foreign language. Afterall, learning a second language opens doors to new cultures and peoples.

“It’s fine saying ‘I love you’ to someone in a foreign language, but it’s better if you can tell them why. That’s why language learning is so important – you’re not going to make that connection just using a phone translator.”

While only 12 per cent of people admitted pretending to be better at a language than they really are to impress someone (just 6% in Northern Ireland), the figure rose to 21 per cent in the 18-24 year old age bracket.

The British Council’s 2018 Language Trends Survey found that in 2017 only 47 per cent of pupils in the UK sat a modern language GCSE compared to 76 per cent in 2002.

The survey, carried out by pollsters Populus and commissioned by the British Council – the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities – found 69 per cent of people in the UK (NI: 79%) believe where one half of a couple speaks an additional language, the relationship can be strengthened if a partner learns that particular language, even where English is the mutual language in the relationship.   

Italian topped the poll as the most romantic language when listed along nine others.  It was selected by a quarter of respondents (25%), with French following closely behind (23%). Closer to home, 5 per cent of those surveyed felt Irish was the most romantic language, followed by Welsh (3%) and Scottish Gaelic (2%).

There was a discernible difference between the sexes, with women choosing Italian (29%) compared to men (21%). While over a quarter of men (26%) opted for French, one in five women (20%) preferred the language. Spanish took third place.

Notes to Editor

Populus interviewed a random sample of 2,154 GB adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 1 and 3 February. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founding member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. 

For more information, contact Ekene Oboko (0) 203 285 3635 or 

For out of hours media enquiries call 07469 375160.

Vicky Gough is available for interview.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.