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'Spanish is UK's most needed foreign language'

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'Spanish is UK's most needed foreign language'
The most common first language globally is Mandarin Chinese with 848 million speakers, while Spanish can boast of 406 million speakers. Photo: The LEAF project/Flickr
13:55 CET+01:00
Spanish is the most important foreign language for the future of the UK, a new study by the British Council argues.
The UK's most important foreign language is not French, or Arabic or even Mandarin Chinese. It's Spanish.
 
That's the finding of a new report by the UK government's educational and cultural institution the British Council.
 
To come up with the result, the council looked at a range of economic, political, cultural and educational indicators including which countries the UK is currently exporting to, where people are travelling, and future high growth markets.
 
Spanish came out top in the analysis, with the top five of foreign languages being rounded out by Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese and German.
 
The Spanish language's strong showing is partly to do with the fact that Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world.
 
The most common first language is Mandarin Chinese with 848 million speakers, while Spanish can boast of 406 million speakers.
 
But Spanish is also key for British business with the language the fifth most widely spoken among the countries the UK exports to.
 
High-growth markets including Argentina, Chile and Mexico are also making Spanish more important.
 
Meanwhile, government sources told the British Council was key for diplomacy with only Arabic and Mandarin Chinese more important.
 
On top of that is the fact that Spanish evening classes are the most popular in the UK.
 
And Spain is also the top overseas tourist destination of people from the UK. 
 
The British Council now wants businesses and governments in the UK to plan strategically for future language needs. 
 
The UK has a fair way to go though: only 25 percent of people say they can speak one of the top ten needed languages well enough to hold a conversation.
 
For Spanish, this figure is a lowly 4 percent.
 
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