The Department for Education has revealed that A-level entries across England for French and German are at an all time low with 6,368 and 2,160 entries in 2023, respectively.
While the trends indicate a level of disinterest in languages at school, teachers at Spanish schools for adults have observed that the language has become ‘fashionable’ amongst young adults.
Director of language school Spanish House London María Carmona said: “We are seeing the opposite of these trends that you see in schools, actually.
“We have seen that more and more adults, young professionals in their 20s or 30s, really like to learn Spanish. We think it’s becoming fashionable.”
She said that the main reasons why adults want to learn Spanish are wanting to travel to Spanish speaking countries, improving their CVs or because they have Spanish or Latin American partners.
Carmona believes GCSE students were often only taught how to pass an exam, rather than the practical skills needed to navigate real-life situations.
The teaching style at Spanish House London is “much more practical and communicative”.
They use games and activities to let the students enjoy the learning process and teach them to speak and communicate with people in everyday situations when abroad.
While there is evidence to suggest that children are better at language acquisition due to the brain’s elasticity at a young age, Carmona spoke about one of the school’s most enthusiastic students, who is 82.
She said: “She loves the lessons and really has so much fun. She’s a great contributor to the group.
“So, even though most of our students are young professionals, learning a language is really great at any time of life.
“When you learn to speak another language, you gain a completely new perspective on so many things.”
After Mandarin, Spanish has the most native speakers in the world, with approximately 485 million native speakers, according to language software Babbel.
A report by the British Council found that, although Spanish remains the preferred modern foreign language at A-level, this has been a recent development, as previously French was more popular.
British Council Schools Advisor Vicky Gough said: “Spanish is currently the favoured language at A level for numerous reasons.
“There is a perception that it is easier to learn, it is spoken in many countries around the world, and pupils are more likely to have been to Spain or have relatives or friends that have.”
Moreover, Spanish is also more prominent in pop culture across music, films and TV shows, which makes it more ‘attractive’ to pupils.
Gough said: “Although French is still the most popular language at GCSE level, last year’s GCSE exam data shows Spanish had the second largest increase compared to other full course subjects, and is on course to overtake French.”
Data from qualification board JCQ showed that French has been the most popular language to learn at school, but that Spanish entries gradually increased between 2015 and 2022.
However, Gough has expressed a widespread concern towards the overall decline in the number of modern foreign language entries in schools.
The British Council, alongside UCL and Goethe-Institut, has plans to address this decline in exam entries with the introduction of the National Consortium for Languages Education (NCLE).
This initiative aims to ‘reinvigorate and strengthen system-led leadership in languages across England and improve the learning opportunities and outcomes’ for all students by creating up to 25 language hubs.
Funded by the Department for Education, £14.9 million will be spent on re-energising language-learning in state primary and secondary schools across England over the course of three years.
So far, the government has released the names of the first 19 schools which are set to become language hubs, including Ada Lovelace CofE High School in Ealing.