Language Learning in Lockdown – Survey Results.

Language Stats UK

Our new survey shows that during 2020 there has been a surge in language learning in the UK. Published for International Mother Language Day (21st of February), the survey of UK respondents is an annual piece of research from Rosetta Stone that looks at shifting language learning trends across Britain. This year’s survey reveals:

  • How many Britons have learnt a foreign language during lockdown
  • What are the best languages to learn during lockdown
  • Which age groups have been learning most during lockdown
  • More UK language learning stats

+ Top linguist and countdown star, Susie Dent, shares her thoughts on these results and on how best to learn a language during lockdown.

How many Britons have learnt a foreign language in lockdown?

Findings from our 2021 language learning survey show that 28% of UK adults can now speak a second language fluently, up from 23% in 2020. That is over 3,300,000 more of us now able to speak another tongue compared to this time last year, demonstrating that whilst the pandemic might have put on hold many personal goals for 2020, learning another language wasn’t one of them!

“It’s encouraging to see that our love of language hasn’t diminished, and that these periods of social distancing may have actively encouraged many to try their hand at mastering another tongue.” – Susie Dent

What are the most popular languages to learn during lockdown?

Spanish has remained at the top of the list of popular languages with 46% identifying it as the language they would like to learn most . French and German follow close behind in second and third place respectively. This mirrors the usage stats of Rosetta Stone during the first lockdown, as does the increasing interest in more unusual languages.

What are the best languages to learn during lockdown?

Non-European languages have also become more popular during 2020, perhaps as people react to the new challenges of Brexit by setting their sights beyond the EU. The amount of those interested in learning Arabic has doubled (6% 2020 – 12% 2021), while increases were also seen for Japanese (10% – 14%) and Korean (2% – 6%).

“Spanish, French and German are still the front-runners, but it’s great to see Arabic, Japanese and Korean showing big leaps in this new Rosetta Stone research report.” – Susie Dent

Start your learning journey

How to learn a language during lockdown

It takes a lot of resilience to keep going with your hobby during lockdown. Susie Dent shared her top 5 tips on how to keep your motivation levels up:

Susie Dent on Countdown

1. Learn about the culture too.

“Learn about the culture behind the language first. It will give you insight into what’s important to its speakers (and what’s not) and will make the whole language-learning experience so much more worthwhile.”

2. Find the learning style that suits you best

“How we learn is individual. Use an app with an approach that suits you – it might be entirely immersive and audio-focused, or a combined approach that uses written and spoken language equally.” 

3. Use all the media you have around the home

“Listen to radio or watch TV in the language you’re learning: you may not understand much at first, but you will start to recognise its sounds and rhythms.”

Note: There is now a google chrome extension that allows you to watch your favourite foreign language films with subtitles in both English and the original language. 

4. Practise little and often

“Practise regularly: it need only be half an hour or an hour a day, but a little-and-often approach can work wonders.”

5. Talk to yourself !

“Say things out loud, if only to yourself. Giving a running commentary as you do everyday things will help consolidate vocabulary in your mind. And if you don’t know the word you need – the dictionary is your friend.” 

Get Going Today

Language statistics UK

Britain has long been the labelled as ‘worst in Europe’ for language learning, so it’s great to see the nation improving its fluency rates. The survey also showed that:  

UK Language Stats
Still a long way to go:
European Stats show Britain’s youth mostly monolingual.
  • Multilingualism has jumped from 28% to 43% in 35–44 year olds
  • Of those who cannot speak another language, 71% wish they could (up from 56% in 2020)
  • Spanish remains top of the wish-list of languages we’d like to learn but Arabic, Japanese and Korean gaining in popularity 
  • 9 out of 10 18-24 year olds keen to learn a second language believe it would change their life
  • More people now think language learning should be compulsory at GCSE level

Hopefully lockdowns will soon be a thing of the past, but perhaps the momentum for British language learning will endure. It’s certainly never too late to get involved and discover the joy of learning a second language for yourself. 

Get Learning

*The research for Rosetta Stone was carried out online by Opinion Matters throughout 18/01/2021 to 20/01/2021 amongst a panel resulting in 2,000 UK adults responding. This research was benchmarked against Rosetta Stone research conducted by Opinion Matters throughout 31/01/2020 to 03/02/2020 amongst a panel resulting in 2,002 UK adults responding.

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