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Asian and Middle Eastern languages in British Council’s top 10 for UK prosperity

9 January 2014

The Languages for the Future report, published by the British Council, has identified Arabic, Mandarin, Turkish and Japanese in the top 10 languages most vital to the UK over the next 20 years.

The languages, all of which can be studied at SOAS, University of London, were chosen based on economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors including the needs of UK businesses, the UK’s overseas trade targets, diplomatic and security priorities, and prevalence on the internet.

Arabic was listed as number two, above French and German, and beaten only by Spanish. Mandarin was number four, Turkish was number nine and Japanese was number 10.

The report highlighted the importance of learning these languages, it concluded the UK must take a strategic approach in planning for effective development of the language capacity which this country needs.

Professor Michel Hockx, Director of the SOAS China Institute, said: “Languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic need to be integrated into the UK education system. They need to become part of the skill set from an early age onwards. Many young people in the UK train up to university level in specific disciplines, only to find out in their early twenties that their lack of language knowledge prevents them from applying those disciplines to the areas of the world that matter most. The ethos of this British Council report is the same ethos underlying our recent success in obtaining HEFCE funding for brand-new language-based area studies programmes at SOAS, in which disciplinary learning, area knowledge, and language proficiency will be merged into a single, high-level skill set."

In his foreword, John Worne, Director of Strategy at the British Council said: “There can be no doubt that the UK needs more of its people to speak foreign languages – for employability, for trade and the economic, and for our cultural life.”

Other languages featured in the top ten were Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and Russian.

Read the full Languages for the Future report.