In Britain, the independent Nuffield Languages Inquiry was launched in 1998, to review the UK’s Flag of the United Kingdomcapability in languages. A committee chaired by Sir Trevor McDonald and Sir John Boyd was asked to consider the following questions and to make recommendations:

  • What capability in languages will the UK need in the next twenty years if it is to fulfil its economic, strategic, social and cultural aims and responsibilities, and the aspirations of its citizens?
  • To what extent do present policies and arrangements meet these needs?
  • What strategic planning and initiatives will be required in the light of the present position?1

Its findings were:

  1. English is not enough
  2. People are looking for leadership to improve the nation’s capability in languages
  3. Young people from the UK are at a growing disadvantage in the recruitment market
  4. The UK needs competence in many languages – not just French – but the education system is not geared to achieve this
  5. The government has no coherent approach to languages
  6. In spite of parental demand, there is still no UK-wide agenda for children to start languages early
  7. Secondary school pupils lack motivation or direction
  8. Nine out of ten children stop learning languages at 16
  9. University language departments are closing, leaving the sector in deep crisis
  10. Adults are keen to learn languages but are badly served by an impoverished system
  11. The UK desperately needs more language teachers2


Further information


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1. Nuffield Foundation (2000). “The Nuffield Languages Inquiry: Languages: the next Generation” in the Reports section of the Nuffield Foundation website [Online] Cited 08/11/2014. Download the report (650kb pdf)
2. Adapted from Willis, Jenny (2002), “Evolution of a national strategy for foreign language learning” found on the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies website [Online] Cited 28/10/2014
3. Tinsley, Teresa (2013). “Languages: The State of the Nation: Demand and Supply of Language Skills in the UK,” Alcantara Communications on the British Academy website [Online] Cited 08/11/2014