LazyWhen speaking with people of other nationalities, it´s very noticeable how fluent they all seem to be in English, with usually another couple of languages tucked under their belts as well. They have a firm grasp of the language and are confident when speaking it; there are no embarrassed looks or pauses, no awkward moments, they can joke around in English and have a vast knowledge of the vocabulary. And then you have the Brits….

Whilst not wishing to stereotype people, Brits on the whole seem fairly content at just belong able to speak English. They may have learned French or German at school, some may have tried their hand at Spanish, Italian or Russian, but those who take it further and become fluent in a second or third language are fairly rare in comparison with their European counterparts.

So why is this? Are Brits just lazy at learning languages, or maybe just reluctant? Is the British educational system letting them down or is the curriculum just not promoting the benefits of language learning enough? Or are the British just complacent, being satisfied with just speaking English with no need to have a knowledge of other languages?

Well, perhaps it´s a mixture of all of them. English is so widely spoken around the world that you´d be hard pushed to go to an area where someone didn´t speak it. Even in countries where English isn´t commonly spoken, there always seem to be people around and to hand who can speak it, if only a little, who always seem willing to help if need be or eager to strike up a conversation.

In 13 member states of the EU, English is compulsory as the first foreign language and is still usually chosen in those countries where it´s not compulsory. Whilst languages are included in the UK´s national curriculum, not as much emphasis is placed on their necessity as is in other countries and pupils aren´t actively persuaded to choose languages over other, more academic subjects. Learning a foreign language in school is not actually compulsory in the UK or Ireland. The benefits of being able to speak more languages aren´t highlighted to pupils and the options this skill could give the pupils later on in life are not necessarily promoted.

The attitude of many Brits is that there is not as much need to learn a foreign language as there is within other countries as English is such a widely spoken language anyway and that, being British, that automatically holds an advantage. Historically, English became the spoken language in many parts of the world and people needed to be able to converse in it to be able to advance in society. Nowadays, it´s an internationally recognised business language.

Despite this lack of foreign fluency, British schools actually offer the highest range of languages available to learn in the EU. Further education establishments, independent language classes and adult education language centres offer an extremely diverse selection of languages, particularly minority ones, and these classes are on the rise. As more people travel or meet new people from other countries, the interest in learning new languages is increasing. More and more people are enrolling in language classes in their spare time, whether it´s to learn the more “common” options such as French, German, Spanish or Italian, the increasingly popular language of Mandarin Chinese, or more obscure languages such as Polish, Danish, Turkish or Russian. This escalation in foreign language learning in the UK will only increase more as people discover a love of other countries and more opportunities for language learning become available to them.

You, too, can join the ranks of linguistic masterminds by taking part in some German lessons in London, or a city near you, and demonstrating your flair for foreign languages. This enthusiasm for linguistics, post-school education, just goes to show that the British aren´t lazy at learning languages after all!