The British Council is calling on people in the UK to make learning a foreign language their resolution for 2016 and the campaign is being backed by actor and broadcaster Larry Lamb.
In August 2015, a poll of 2,098 UK adults by the British Council poll found a quarter felt nervous at the thought of having to speak a language on holiday.
The Council’s languages drive comes as the number of pupils taking GCSEs in modern languages continues to fall. Higher Education Statistics Agency data released in February 2015 showed that entries to modern foreign language degree courses had dropped.
French fell by 25%, German by 34% and Spanish by 1%. Overall, the number of entrants to modern foreign languages fell by 16% between 2007/08 and 2013/14.
The British Council says tackling “just a phrase a day” in a foreign language could see people greatly improve their language skills.
Supporting the Council’s campaign, Mr Lamb said, “Languages, for me, are about opening the world up. It gives you another soul, it gives you another person. My teacher, Miss Smith, started to teach us French.
“From learning French, I learnt German, from being in Germany I found out about amateur theatre and here I am today, talking to you about learning languages having had a career that’s gone on for 40 years now.”
Vicky Gough, Schools Adviser at the British Council, said, “The UK is currently facing a shortfall in people who can speak foreign languages. And with lots of free and innovative ways to get started, there has never been a better time to take up a new language.
“More than that, the benefits of learning one are huge, from boosting job prospects to acquiring the ability to understand and better connect with another culture. If the UK is to remain competitive on the international stage, we need far more of us to develop our language skills.”