ALMOST six in 10 British adults speak only the language they first learned as a child, but 15 per cent of people are bilingual, according to a survey published today.
Just over 41 per cent of adults would like to learn another language if circumstances permitted, but only 5 per cent are currently doing so. They are tackling more than 23 languages, including Bulgarian, Cantonese, Anglo Saxon and New Testament Greek.
Nearly 4,000 adults were interviewed for the survey, commissioned by NIACE, the adult learners' organisation.
Alan Tuckett, director of NIACE, said: "There is much more of an appetite for languages than there is a service which is able to meet it." He said that figures for people able to speak more than one language were high. They might not meet other countries' achievements, but they had made enormous strides.
He was encouraged by the fact that almost half the number of people interviewed expressed a wish to learn another language.
The survey found that social class has an impact on language learning. In the upper middle classes 65 per cent speak one or more additional languages compared to just 28 per cent at the unskilled end of society. Younger people speak more languages than older people. There is no gender imbalance, with men and women speaking as many languages as each other.
Of those who wanted to learn another language, French, German and Spanish were the most popular, but 60 languages were mentioned. Celtic languages had a strong following.
Sixteen to 19-year-olds most wanted to learn Spanish while German is of greatest interest to 40 to 59-year-olds.
There are also considerable differences in attitudes to learning, depending on where you live. Almost twice as many people want to learn a new language in Wales as in the South-west. But the South-west scores highly on languages already spoken, as does Greater London. Wales does best in languages spoken, and on future intentions to learn.
"Tongue-Tied But Trying" published by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. Details on 0116 255 1451