LONDON – A report published on Tuesday by the British Council, the United Kingdom’s international organization for cultural relations, rated Spanish as a key foreign language to ensure success after the country leaves the European Union.
The report identifies five languages: Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic, and German, as the most likely to best equip UK citizens for a future outside of the bloc.
“Which foreign languages will be most important for the UK post-Brexit?” is the title of the report that identifies the same languages, in the same order of importance, as it had in 2013 when the last report was produced.
“The report considers two things – which languages the UK needs most according to a variety of economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors. And, how well equipped we are to meet this demand,” the report said.
In both reports the British Council rated Spanish as the language likely to improve the skills base of the British workforce of tomorrow, stating the need to move beyond relying on English as a “lingua franca.”
In the last 20 years, Spanish has increased in importance, and in 2004 it overtook German, the report said.
It concluded that Spanish now accounts for over twice as many candidates as the next language currently taught in UK schools.
“Languages are priceless for a generation growing in an increasingly interconnected world,” said Vicky Gough, a member of the British Council.
“If the United Kingdom seeks to become truly global after Brexit, languages must become a national priority,” she said.
Although the UK is linguistically rich not only with indigenous languages including Welsh, Gaelic, Irish, Scots, Ulster Scots, Manx and Cornish, but also with the 200 to 300 foreign languages spoken in its 21st-century multicultural society, only one in three Britons said they were able to hold a conversation in another language.
According to the report, a lack of language skills was identified as the major reason young Britons do not take up opportunities to gain international experience.
Ann Carlisle, Chief Executive of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Linguists, said the government must recognize that professional linguists in the UK, regardless of nationality, are going to be crucial alongside EU trade negotiators and lawyers in achieving a successful post-Brexit economy.
The British Council suggests a second language should be upgraded to a level equivalent to science or mathematics at British schools.
According to Caroline Wilson, Director of the European Department at the Foreign Office and Commonwealth Affairs, A post-Brexit global Britain will need a greater investment in languages to ensure a stable, prosperous and globally linked Britain.
The council is confident a second language will be of crucial importance for the UK’s future prosperity, security, and influence around the world.