2019 could see Spanish overtake French at A level

New report highlights 'dynamism and growth' of Spanish and says it will be most-needed language post Brexit

A new survey on languages in schools has been published

Spanish could overtake French as the UK's most popular language at A level in 2019, the authors of a new report have said.

Teaching Spanish in the UK, which was launched at the Spanish Embassy in London last week, analyses trends which have also seen French and German in decline.

The authors said the popularity of Spain as a tourist destination is driving the subject’s “extraordinary and spectacular growth”.

Co-author Teresa Tinsley said: “Pupils think they will have an opportunity to speak Spanish in an enjoyable setting, and they are more aware that it’s a global language, say than French is, because of Latin America and because of the status of Spanish in the United States.

“Because we consume so much American culture, it seeps into our awareness that – if there’s another language to learn – then Spanish is a good one to know.

“And then there’s football, of course.”

Ms Tinsley told a gathering at the launch of the report that Spanish had already overtaken French as the most popular A level in Northern Ireland.

She later told Tes that the same thing could happen this academic year in the UK as a whole, although it was more likely to occur in 2020.

She added: "I think students are motivated by the idea of travel and having a good time rather than work. They can see themselves on a beach or at a fiesta."  

Figures in the report say that A-level Spanish entries in the UK rose to just under 9,000 in 2017, compared to just under 8,000 in 2011.

In comparison, it says that A-level French entries fell to just over 9,000 last year, compared to around 13,000 in 2011.

At GCSE, the report says there were 90,549 candidates for Spanish in 2017 compared to 58,681 in 2011, while in French there were 130,801 in 2017, compared to 141,749 in 2011.

Report co-author Gonzalo Capellan de Miguel said that if the GCSE trends continued at this rate, Spanish would become the most popular language at GCSE within the next five years.

He said: “The popularity and demand of Spanish has grown in such an extraordinary and spectacular way over the past 20 years.

"There are now around half-a-million pupils in secondary schools in the UK studying Spanish.

“People in Spain can’t believe it. They think the British education system is not very inclined to language learning and they think that if the British are going to learn a language it will be French.”

He added: “I was in Liverpool and a taxi driver told me he was so happy that his daughter was studying Spanish because they go on holiday to Spain every year and now she is the main translator."

The report states that almost 19 million people from Britain went on holiday to Spain last year making it “by far and away” the most popular destination for British residents.

It also cites research from the British Council, which states that Spanish will be “the most needed language in post-Brexit Britain,” based on a range of factors including perceptions of business leaders, patterns of tourism and “strategic aims of government in terms of economy and security”.

The findings came as German A-level was overtaken by Mandarin for the first time this year.


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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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