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Learning English - Words in the News
01 September, 2008 - Published 11:16 GMT
Young Britons shy away from learning languages
Learning languages

Two out of three teenagers in Britain are keen to work abroad but most of them don't speak foreign languages. Government figures show that 58% of 11-18 year olds in the UK have no foreign language skills, and this has a negative effect on the economy. Tom Burridge reports:

Listen to the story

Fact or fiction? Most British people are lazy when it comes to learning a foreign language.

- Fact.
- Why do you say that?
- 'Cos we don't need to. 'Cos everybody else speaks English.
- Fact. Foreigners make it too easy for you because they speak English when you're abroad.

Those views on the streets of London are backed up by figures out this week. The British Government found that 58 percent of 11-18 year olds in the UK do NOT speak a second language. However two thirds of teenagers in Britain want to work abroad when they're older - the countries of choice being Italy, Spain, France or China. The British Government admits there is a problem - that not enough young people continue learning a second language when they leave school. Teresa Tinley from the country's national centre of languages says it has big implications for the economy:

We are in a competitive global market and we need to be able to speak to our customers and our potential customers. Our trade is very much geared towards English-speaking countries. Our research shows that our exports are suffering.

The research is seen as further evidence that most young people assume they can get by in a foreign country by speaking English - something the authorities in London want to change.

Tom Burridge, BBC

Listen to the words

here, something that is made up, untrue

backed up
confirmed, proven

here, published, made known to the public

recognises, says it's a fact

big implications
serious negative effect/consequences

potential customers
people or companies that might use your services or buy goods from you in the future

geared towards
directed/aimed at

further evidence
more proof, another confirmation

believe something is true without question or proof

get by
survive, find their way about

To take away:
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