Spanish on the rise in the United Kingdom

Despite Brexit raising concerns about
isolation and lack of interest in other cultures, Spanish is becoming more
popular in Britain and it could soon be the most studied foreign language at
school level if current trends continue.
The popularity of foreign languages in
British schools has been decreasing since 2004 after the government’s decision
to remove the subject from the compulsory curriculum at Key Stage 4, when students
follow courses that lead to national qualifications such as GCSE (General
Certificate of Secondary Education). According to a recent study by the
British Council, ‘Language Trends 2019’, a survey-based report that includes
more than 1,600 primary and secondary school teachers across England, entries
for GCSE
languages have seen a decline of 19% over the past five years. However, whereas
numbers for French and German have dropped by 30% each, the reduction for
Spanish is just 2% showing that it has more stability than the other two languages
at that stage of the education system. At A-Level, a main school leaving
qualification in Britain, the situation of Spanish is even more promising as
while French and German have been steadily declining since the mid-90’s,
entries for Spanish have been increasing almost every year. The report
anticipates a rise of 10% for the 2019 intake.
Traditionally, French and German were the
languages taught at schools and universities across the UK, but Spanish has
been growing its importance over the past 20 years and, based on the above
trends, it is expected to overtake French as the most popular foreign language
in British schools both at GCSE and A-Level. Back in 2004, it had already
overtaken German as the second most studied language in Britain. At university
level, Spanish is also the pupils’ favourite language, the British Council has
found based on a survey carried out in 2016 and included in the ‘Languages for
the Future report’ (2017 edition). It is taught by 70 universities at degree
level across the UK and, according to the report, it has had ‘fewer
departmental closures than other languages’. This study has produced a table of
the ten most important languages for the UK where Spanish ranks first and it is
followed by Mandarin, French, Arabic and German as the top 5.
In the same light, a 2018 report by the Cervantes Institute, El
español: una lengua viva. Informe 2018, highlights that Spanish is seen as
the most important language for the future in the UK, even after Brexit. As
mentioned above, the withdrawal from the EU and its potential implications in
terms of indifference to other European cultures does not seem to be affecting
the rise of the Spanish language across Britain. Francisco Oda, head of the
Cervantes Institute in Manchester said to the Spanish newspaper El País last
July that despite initial concerns that Brexit would bring a decline in the
number of enrolments at their centres, “they have oddly increased”.
The Cervantes Institute report states that in the two main
English-speaking countries, i.e. the UK and the US, the interest to learn
Spanish is particularly high and that Spanish is considered to be the most
important foreign language in both countries.
SOURCES
Language Trends 2019. Language teaching in primary and secondary schools
in England. Survey report. British
Council.
El español:
una lengua viva. Informe 2018. Instituto
Cervantes.
Languages for the future (2017 edition). British Council.
‘Why Spanish is fast becoming Britain’s favourite foreign language.’ El
País 15/07/2019


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