PUPILS studying foreign languages have fallen by 19% in the last five years, according to the British Council.
The latest Language Trends report blamed ‘Brexit’ as a key factor in the drop in number.
“Brexit threatens to broaden the socioeconomic and academic divide,” the report said.
It added that teachers in both state and private education were ‘aware’ that Brexit had a negative impact on ‘motivation to learn a European language’.
Mark Levy, head of English programs at the British Council in Madrid, also said that languages were not being ‘given priority’ at UK schools.
“Increasingly fewer teachers are trained in foreign language teaching, there are fewer international exchanges and external language exams are considered more difficult than other subjects,” he said in a statement.
The news is sweetened by the fact that Spanish is to pip French as UK schools’ most popular second language by 2020.
The Iberian tongue overtook German in 2008 to become the UK’s second-most popular foreign language at GCSE level.
But Spanish still lagged behind French in 2017, when 7,600 pupils took the GCSE subject – compared to the 8,300 who took French.
According to London’s Cervantes director Ignacio Peyró, foreign language acquisition plays a key role in bridging international divides.
“People who are studying Spanish in our academies have business or work ties with the US and Spanish-speaking countries. The bond grows,” he said.
“Also there is a feeling that Spanish is easier, and of course it is a language that is used on account of the large number of tourists coming to Spain.”
The report concluded that the above factors most harmed students who were academically challenged, or attended state schools – only 25% of state-run institutes had exchange programmes, compared to nearly half of private schools.
“These shortfalls are not good for our society nor for the future of our country,” said Teresa Tinsley, the report’s author.