Wednesday 30 December 2015


The British Council has launched a campaign – backed by actor and broadcaster Larry Lamb – calling on people in the UK to make learning a foreign language their New Year’s resolution for 2016.

Following continued decline in language learning at both school and university levels across the UK, the #LearnALanguage drive aims to inspire more of us 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 (58%) 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% of those surveyed said that they would be keen to revisit a language that they studied at school.1 

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% since 2007/08. These are worrying trends given that employers are crying out for language skills2 and the UK’s current lack of them is estimated to be costing the country tens of billions of pounds.3 

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. Lamb, who features in a new video4 released as part of the drive, 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. 

Notes to Editor

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Kristen McNicoll on 07765 898 738 or The out-of-hours press officer can also be reached on 07469 375160.

British Council spokespeople are available for interview.

Exam figures are taken from JCQ figures.

1. These statistics come from a Populus survey which interviewed a random sample of 2,080 GB adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 28-29 October 2015.  

2. Employers’ demand for more language skills in the UK workforce refers to the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2014 which indicated that nearly two-thirds of firms identified a need for foreign language skills.

3. Independent research carried out on behalf of UK Trade & Investment by Professor James Foreman-Peck in 2014 shows that poor language skills and a lack of cultural understanding are holding back the UK’s trade performance at an estimated cost of £48 billion a year.

4. The video featuring Larry Lamb can be viewed here. It has been produced for the British Council by ITN Productions.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally. 

For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and