Every student, no matter whether they completed their schooling in Britain or abroad, has sat through countless lessons of learning a foreign language, in some cases this tuition proving more fruitful than others. However, it is slightly  strange that the number of people learning foreign languages is quite low in a mutlicultural society such as Britain.

Since 1996, the number of students choosing to take languages like German or French as a GCSE subject has decreased significantly- the amount of French-learning students in the mid-90s was about 300,00, whereas in 2021 it was found that only approximately 130,000 pupils started French GCSE courses (House of Commons briefing paper no.07388). But what could the reason for this dramatic fall be, and is there anything being done to raise these figures?

One factor that may heavily impact the willingness of people to learn foreign languages is English being one of the most spoken languages worldwide, and it having become a common language everywhere. As someone from Hungary, I recall learning English as a foreign language in school at the age of six, before I moved to England- it is the most taught language in the world. This globalisation allows for ease of communication in nearly all corners of the globe, making it seem unnecessary for native English speakers to seek out other languages.

However, other languages may be neglected because of the curriculum and the way language courses are set up- perhaps because of their perceived (or actual) difficulty, they seem to be a daunting task for a public who has got by perfectly fine with nothing but English for years. The British Council report on Language Trends in 2020 found that students not choosing to pursue Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) at GCSE mostly did so due to perceived difficulty, of both the course itself and the grade boundaries needed for higher grades. 

Evidently, the government is attempting to doctor this by introducing reforms to the MFL curriculum, starting in 2024- language courses will aim to be “more accessible and attractive”, as well as including more day-to-day vocabulary that is useful in everyday speech. After all, it is quite difficult to get by on a holiday to France when the only phrase floating around your head relates to the contents of your pencil case.

  • This article was written by Lili Vikor, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter Scheme.