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English language now a 'threat' to British!

A report says British students should be encouraged to learn Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2006 12:54 IST

Thanks to large numbers of English speakers in India and China, British citizens no longer have the traditional advantage in the use of the English language.

In fact, the global dominance of English now poses a threat to Britain's international standing, the research commissioned by the British Council states.

The study reveals that as the number of people around the world who speak English nears two billion, the advantage traditionally enjoyed by British citizens is disappearing, with millions of students in other countries speaking English and at least one other language.

The report's author, David Graddol, says British 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," he told The Guardian.

The report found that English is not taught as a foreign language in many countries, including China and India, where is seen as a basic universal skill.

In China, 60 per cent of primary school children learn English and more people in India and China speak the language fluently than anywhere else in the world, the report added.

The newspaper reported that Digby Jones, director of the Confederation of British Industry, had repeatedly called for more students to study foreign languages to improve competitiveness.

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 a field," 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 16, 2006 12:25 IST