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Comment: Multilingualism research centre welcomes British Council call for more language learning – University of Reading

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Comment: Multilingualism research centre welcomes British Council call for more language learning

Release Date 20 November 2013

The British Council's Languages for the Future report, published today, highlights the ten most important foreign languages to Britain.

The report identifies Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese as the languages most vital to the UK over the next 20 years.

The University of Reading not only carries out cutting-edge research into the importance of language learning, but also offers the opportunity for all students to learn a language as part of their course - including all ten on the British Council's 'most wanted' list.

Professor Jeanine Treffers-Daller, director of the Centre for Multilingualism and Literacy at the University of Reading, welcomed the report.

She said:

"Britain's stubborn unwillingness to become more multilingual means the rest of the world is forging ahead in the global race. We risk the UK being left at the starting line unable to read the map and with its shoelaces tied together.

"The report calls for British schoolchildren to learn at least one foreign language. While there are undoubted pressures on the existing curriculum, I would have hoped that the British Council could have followed the EU stance that children should learn at least two other languages.

"Recent attention has been focused on learning languages of the big emerging economies, such as Mandarin and Portuguese. But it is striking that among the most important languages needed by UK business, less fashionable European languages, such as Dutch, Swedish and Italian, are still crucial. The recommendation that language teaching in schools should be held in the same high regard as science and maths is particularly welcome.

"Language learning is not just good for the British economy. Being bilingual or multilingual gives significant educational, cognitive and mental health benefits. Those who are fluent in more than one language are more mentally and socially flexible. Research shows they are better at switching between tasks, can shift their attention well and supress irrelevant information more easily.

"There is also evidence that the onset of degenerative diseases is delayed by 3-4 years in bilingual and multilingual individuals. Such benefits are not well known among the wider public. If we want to encourage British people to break the national habit of linguistic laziness we need to lay out every possible advantage of learning a language."


For more information for media contact Pete Castle at the University of Reading press office on 0118 378 7391 or

Notes to editors:

About the Centre for Multilingualism and Literacy:

Launched in September 2013, the University of Reading's Centre for Multilingualism and Literacy ( has been created to bring together state-of-the-art empirical research in Education, Linguistics, Modern Languages, Neuroscience and Psychology. The Centre's aim is to ensure the outcomes of its research have a positive and lasting impact on society, both through the public and private sectors.

One of its key focus points is the interface between literacy and multilingualism. Literacy is crucially important for a person's educational and professional career chances, but its role in multilingual people has not yet been studied in any detail.

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