Fewer Pupils Taking Up Foreign Languages

The number of pupils studying modern foreign languages continued to slump this year, the latest A-level results have shown.

French exam entries have gone down by 4.7%, with the number of those studying German decreasing by 6.9%. Entries for Spanish decreased by 0.2%, bringing an end to successive year-on-year increases since 2002.

In total, the three languages saw a 3.9% decrease in entry – with the five-year pattern showing a 6.3% fall.

Andrew Hall, chief executive of exam board AQA, said: “Modern foreign languages are in long-term decline here.”

French remains the most popular of all foreign languages, with 13,196 entries this year. Spanish is the second most popular, with 7,610 entrants, followed by German, with 5,166 students choosing the subject. But while the popularity of more traditional languages is falling, students have shown an interest in taking up alternatives, such as Chinese.

Other languages accounted for 8,953 entries this year – and of those, Chinese is by far the most popular and has also seen the most significant rise. A total of 3,237 chose to study the language this year, compared to 2,372 last year.

Asked to explain the rise, Mr Hall said: “It’s really hard not to see the growth of China as an economic force. It’s a really good thing to be able to speak that language. It is not a straightforward, easy language to learn. But I think people are saying: ‘This is going to increase my life choices.’ It is a growing trend.”

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “It is worrying that take-up has fallen in French and German and flatlined in Spanish, even if it is rising in other languages. Languages are important to the social and economic future of this country, so we are concerned about the knock-on effect on A-levels from the decline in modern languages at GCSE.”

Dr Neil Bentley, deputy director general of business organisation the CBI, said: “Strong exports performance in emerging markets will be crucial to driving our economic recovery, so it’s positive news that the number of young people studying Chinese has gone up.

“Companies will need many more people with strong language skills to help them enter new markets like China in the future.”

Taken from Press Association: 17.08.11