Latest News

A selection of language-related news. Does not claim to be comprehensive or represent the views of SCILT.


What are the most popular subjects in Scotland?

23 August 2019 (TESS)

Earlier this month the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) published annual data on qualifications at all levels.

Tes Scotland has examined the figures to find the most popular subjects at Higher level in 2019, a list that includes all 27 subjects with at least 1,000 entries. Also included are four subjects which had more than 1,000 entries in 2016 – the first year that only the new version of the Higher was run – but which have now dipped below 1,000 entries.

In brackets are the number of Higher entries for each of the 31 subjects in 2016. This offers a better comparison that the figures for 2015, the first year in which the new version of Higher was offered, as for that year only the old Higher was also available.

Finally, below that, we also take a look at which subjects are losing popularity at Higher level, and which are on the rise, by calculating the percentage difference between entries in 2016 and 2019 for each of the 31 subjects.

The figures suggest that social subjects are being squeezed, with geography, in particular, seeing a fall in entries of almost 16 per cent between 2016 and 2019.

But there are even bigger falls in some subjects, including computing science (27.5 per cent) and French (25.4 per cent) and – the biggest fall proportionally – philosophy (34.8 per cent).

Few subjects have seen rises in entries, with Spanish among those to increase (17.5 per cent), although by far the biggest rise proportionally is in politics (55.3%).

For context, overall entries fell from 197,750 in 2016 to 185,914 in 2019, a drop of almost 6 per cent. In italics are all the subjects where the percentage drop in entries is Higher than the overall percentage drop in entries across all subjects.

(Note - subscription required to access full article).


Young People in Scotland Survey 2017: STEM and language findings

19 March 2018 (Scottish Government)

This report presents data from Ipsos MORI's Young People in Scotland Survey 2017 on the choices young people make regarding STEM and language subjects in school.

The report can be accessed on the Scottish Government website.


Foreign Language Enrollments Drop Sharply

12 March 2018 (Inside Higher Education)

Foreign language enrollments dropped 9.2 percent from fall 2013 to fall 2016, according to new data from the Modern Language Association. The drop is the second largest since the MLA started tracking such information in 1958.


Mapping the learning of Chinese and about China in Scotland

23 November 2017 (SCEN)

SCEN are keen to give all young people in Scotland the opportunities they need, and to that end, it is looking to find out the current situation with regard to learning Chinese and about China in Scotland. SCEN has published a report, 'Mapping of the Learning of Chinese and about China in Scotland's Schools' following on from a survey carried out by SCEN and the Confucius Institute for Scotland. Access the report through the link below.

For further information or to comment, please contact Dr Judith McClure, Chair of SCEN.


Language learning gap widens between North and South of England

16 June 2017 (British Council)

The language learning gap between the North and South of England is widening, according to a new report from the British Council.

Analysis of examination statistics in the Language Trends Survey 2017 – now in its fifteenth year – highlights that in summer 2016, 65 per cent of pupils in Inner London took a language GCSE compared to just 43 per cent in the North East. More than that, participation rates over the last three years indicate that London is the only part of the country where the percentage of pupils taking languages to GCSE is currently increasing.


Parents think Mandarin is most useful language for children, survey says

5 January 2017 (BT)

Mandarin Chinese is the most useful non-European language for children to learn, UK parents believe.

It will boost their child's career prospects, according to 51%of parents, while 56% felt it would open their children's minds to an "exciting and dynamic" culture.

Arabic and Japanese, which both picked by 14% of parents, were the other key non-European languages.

The figures were gained after 1,138 UK adults with children aged under 18 were questioned in a Populus survey commissioned by the Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP).

French, Spanish and German were the top choices overall for young people in the UK to learn after being picked by 57%, 54% and 40% of parents respectively.


UCAS: End of year acceptances cycle 2016 published

19 December 2016 (UCML)

19 December 2016: UCAS published data for the end-of-year acceptances cycle for 2016. Although overall the trend for language acceptances continues to decrease (-8% overall on last year), there are some positive signals coming from some of the languages.


Report shows progress in promoting modern foreign languages in Welsh schools

14 December 2016 (Welsh Government)

The number of pupils learning Mandarin has more than doubled according to a new report on a drive to increase the use of modern foreign languages in Welsh schools (Weds 14th Dec).

In October 2015 the Welsh Government published Global Futures, a plan to improve and promote modern foreign languages in Wales and today a new report on the progress made has been published.

It comes as the Education Secretary will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Spanish Government to improve and promote the teaching and learning of the Spanish language in Wales.

The MOU builds on a range of activity being carried out in Wales by the Spanish Embassy Education Office.


Statistics and nuance – the new secrets behind learning a foreign language

21 June 2016 (European Commission)

Software that uses statistics to adapt to your learning style and greater insight into how the brain processes ambiguity and nuance are helping scientists design new ways to learn a foreign language.

Dr Mait Müntel, CEO and co-founder of EU-backed start-up Lingvist, is an unlikely language-learning entrepreneur. He was working as a physicist at the CERN lab in Switzerland, part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson, when he had the idea that he has developed into a growing business.


By the numbers: Modern languages

29 April 2016 (TESS)

TESS infographic on modern languages uptake in England and Scotland comparing 2012-13 and 2014-15 academic sessions.

Access the article in TESS online, 29 April 2016, page 11. (Subscription required).


Language Trends 2014-2015

5 November 2015 (SCILT)

We have conducted a brief analysis of published SQA language statistics at SCQF levels 4-7 in 2014 and 2015.

See the 'Language Trends in Scotland 2014-15' report on our website.



11 May 2015 (European Commission)

Eurydice has launched their new website on European education systems - descriptions, comparative studies, indicators and statistics.


Census 2011: Identity, Language and Religion in Scotland

19 March 2014 (Scottish Government)

The statistics published today by the Registrar General for Scotland on the Scotland’s Census website, present further details from the 2011 Census in Scotland on Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion, from national to local level.

Other tables in this release, within the Standard Outputs menu, present information on: 

  • Gaelic language skills by sex by age 
  • English language skills by sex by age 
  • Language other than English used at home by sex by age


Related Links

Graphical data on languages in Scotland (Scotland's Census 2011)

Modern languages and linguistics postgraduate and master's courses in 2014

25 February 2014 (The Guardian)

University performance data for modern languages and linguistics in our sortable table.


Trend of Modern Language Entries at SCQF Levels 4-5

01 November 2013 (SCILT)

SCILT have produced a document with statistics on Modern Language Entries at SCQF Levels 4-5 from 2009-2013. This is in addition to the statistics previously published:
- Trend of Modern Language Entries and Attainment at Higher in French, German and Spanish
- Trend of Modern Language Entries and Attainment at Higher in the lesser studied languages (Italian, Gaelic for Learners, Mandarin, Urdu and Russian)

Visit our Statistics on languages in Scotland page to download the PDFs.

Baltics are on top for learning foreign languages

30 September 2013 (The Baltic Times)

RIGA - Latvia and Lithuania are two of the top countries in Europe for learning foreign languages, the latest research shows. New figures from the Central Statistical Bureau show 85 percent of the total number of pupils in general schools in Latvia learn foreign languages.

Latvia trails just behind neighbour Lithuania, where 97.3 percent of the population speaks at least one foreign language.


Related Links

Luxembourgers are language-savvy (Poliglotti4, 3 October 2013)

UK still suffers trips of the tongues

29 August 2013 (THE Letters)

Your editorial “A timely look under the bonnet” (22 August) is right to draw attention to the issue of language degrees, but one of the figures was inaccurate. As of 23 August, the number of students starting a language degree was not down by 13 per cent but by less than 0.5 per cent.


2013 A level results - languages data

15 August 2013 (UCML)

The A level results came out today (15 August 2013). What's been the impact on languages?


University guide 2014: league table for modern languages and linguistics

4 June 2013 (The Guardian)

The table includes French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, south Asian, African, Australasian, modern Middle Eastern languages, literature and linguistics.


Ten recession-proof degree subjects: French

12 April 2013 (The Telegraph)

The only language to appear on this list is, perhaps surprisingly, French.

But the subject has enjoyed the lowest unemployment of any modern language both prior to the recession (6.5 per cent) and since (9.7).

Languages also feature in the Top 10 subjects for achieving a 'first'.


Related Links

Top 10 degree subjects for achieving a 'first' (The Telegraph, 12 April 2013)

Anti-European sentiment 'turning children off learning languages'

20 March 2013 (The Guardian)

(Relates to England)  Report finds A-level entries for French and German fell by half between 1996 and 2012, with language GCSEs also in decline. Anti-European sentiment is turning teenagers off modern foreign languages, experts have suggested.


Related Links

Language learning in primary and secondary schools in England 2012 (CfBT, 20 March 2013)  CfBT Education Trust today published the results of national surveys of primary and secondary schools, revealing the multiple challenges for languages within the new English National Curriculum.

Anti-European attitudes 'turning pupils off languages' (The Telegraph, 20 March 2013)

Europhobia, language trends and scratchy labels (Alcantara Communications, 21 March 2013)

Languages barrier may persist despite EBac boost (TES, 22 March 2013)

University applications 2013: what subjects are people applying for?

30 January 2013 (The Guardian)

The number of applicants to UK universities has risen by 3.5%.

Computer sciences had the highest increase in total applications (up by 12.3% at the same point last year). It seems social sciences, arts and languages are feeling the biggest decreases.


138,000 speak no English – census

30 January 2013 (BBC News)

(Relates to England) The number of people living in England and Wales who could not speak any English was 138,000, latest figures from the 2011 census show.  After English, the second most reported main language was Polish, with 546,000 speakers, followed by Punjabi and Urdu.


Related Links

In praise of … the Polish language (The Guardian, 30 January 2013)

Polish becomes England's second language (The Guardian, 30 January 2013)

Census 2011: the language data visualised (The Guardian, 30 January 2013)

Sacre bleu! Getting children to study languages is tough

11 January 2013 (TESS)

The difficulties in persuading pupils to study foreign languages at Higher has been underlined by a report that compares languages and social subjects uptake.

The report, which uses social subjects as a comparator since many pupils choose these over languages, finds that the "conversion rate" for languages from Standard grade and Intermediate is "significantly" below that for social subjects.


Scots fare worst in bilingualism study

14 November 2012 (The Scotsman)

Scots have fared worst in a Europe-wide initiative designed to foster bilingualism.
The study, which was led by the University of Edinburgh and backed by the European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), recruited 25 monolingual families from five European countries.


University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages