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Maggio 2013
Il rapporto tra inglesi e lingue straniere non è proprio dei migliori. Avvantaggiati dal fatto che la loro è la “lingua universale”, gli anglofoni si sono addormentati un po’ sugli allori e non imparano idiomi stranieri, ma le cose stanno cambiando. La lingua più gettonata? Il cinese!

di Sally Trowbridge © British Council

File audio:

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

If you’re reading – or listening to – this, then you’re probably studying English. Maybe you speak a couple of other languages too, but what are the British like when it comes to learning languages?


According to a survey published by the European Commission, the British are officially the worst language learners in Europe – 62 per cent of them can’t speak any other language apart from their own! While 38 per cent of Britons speak at least one foreign language, only 18 per cent can speak two. According to the EU, 56 per cent of Europeans speak at least one foreign language and 28 per cent speak at least two. Moreover, 51 per cent of EU citizens can have a conversation in English.


Learning a foreign language is not a popular option at school in Britain; children start studying a foreign language at the age of 11 and many give up completely at 14. So why don’t young people continue with languages at school? Research suggests that students think that it is more difficult to get good grades in languages than in other subjects, such as science or history.


The government is now looking at different ways to improve language learning. One idea is to start much younger and introduce foreign languages from the age of five. Another plan is to give schoolchildren more choice and expand the range of languages taught to include Arabic, Mandarin and Urdu.


Mandarin Chinese is predicted to become the second most popular foreign language learned in UK schools. Gareth from Wales says: “I am learning Chinese, and find it fun.” Another student, Thomas from London, says: “Just saying that I learn Mandarin impresses people. Even having a very basic level gives you an advantage.”
Brighton College headmaster Richard Cairns says: “One of my key tasks is to make sure pupils are equipped for the realities of the 21st century. One of those realities is that China has the fastest-growing economy in the world.”
It may be an ambitious task to change the Brits’ attitude to learning languages, but the government is determined to try!

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