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Britons need to learn more than just English

As per a new study, the international dominance of English is posing a threat to UK's global standing, reports Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 20:41 IST

The international dominance of English, is posing a threat to the UK's global standing, a study has found.

The language which has brought economic and cultural benefit to Britain for the past 100 years is spoken by almost 2 billion people, but a British Council research published today reveals that the advantage traditionally enjoyed by UK citizens is disappearing, with millions of students in other countries speaking English and at least one other language.

In China, 60 per cent primary schoolchildren learn English and more people in India and China speak the language than anywhere else in the world. And the report also found that English is not taught as a foreign language in many countries, including India and China. Instead it is seen as a "basic universal skill."

The report's author, David Graddol, says UK students should be encouraged to learn Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic, "languages of the future", if they want to keep up with international competitors.

"This trend has major implications for the UK where many people do not speak another language with any great proficiency. When we are in competition economically, educationally or culturally, conversing in English alone is no longer enough."

Digby Jones, the director of the CBI, has repeatedly called for more students to study foreign languages beyond A-level to improve competitiveness. Last night the British Council said the report was a "call to action for the UK".

"In terms of dealing with the future that Graddol predicts we've already kick-started Mandarin teaching in the UK and have pioneered programmes to encourage language learning and student/teacher exchanges both in Europe and the Arab world and further afield," said John Whitehead of the British Council. "It is absolutely essential for British children to learn other languages and we will be working hard to put further strategies in place to ensure this happens."

First Published: Feb 15, 2006 20:41 IST