The British Academy responds to new HEPI report on languages

9 Jan 2020

The British Academy has today welcomed a new report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) on modern language learning. 

HEPI’s report, A Languages Crisis?, highlights a huge drop in demand for learning languages and makes a set of recommendations for reversing the decline.

The paper shows that only 32% of 15-to-30-year olds from the UK can read and write in two or more languages (including their first language) far behind the likes of France (79%), Germany (91%) and Denmark (99%).

Responding to the report, Professor Neil Kenny, Languages Lead at the British Academy, said:

‘HEPI’s report is an excellent addition to the growing body of work on the UK’s languages crisis. As well as highlighting the scale of the challenge, the paper makes useful recommendations on how to reverse the overall fall in language learning, many of which chime with the British Academy’s own work in this area.

‘Last year, in conjunction with our sister national academies, we called on Government to adopt and implement a UK-wide languages strategy to revive modern language learning (coordinating with existing strategies in Scotland and Wales). A similar call was made at the same time by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages. The British Academy has since been working with a broad range of partners to determine the detail of what such a strategy could look like, with a view to publishing this in Spring 2020.

‘With Brexit just around the corner, we need linguists more than ever. Languages are vital for effective trade, diplomacy and soft power, for social cohesion, social mobility, and educational attainment, all of which will be essential to the UK’s future success.’

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