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Two surveys show popularity of language classes for adult learners

Two surveys released during Adult Learning Week have shown that learning a new language is still the top choice with adult learners although IT and PC skills are not far behind.

Almost one in three adults in the UK have learnt a new language, according to a new NIACE survey. The figures revealed that 30% of British people have learnt a language as an adult compared to the 45% who learnt other languages, as well as their mother tongue, as a child.

The survey shows that four percent of adults are currently learning a new language, of which one per cent are currently learning English ““ equivalent to two million adults in the UK. In addition to this, the survey also indicates that one in three of us would like to learn another language, and the languages highest up on the wish list are French, German, Spanish and Italian.

Those who choose to learn continental European languages as an adult tend to be predominantly white, young, employed, from social classes AB and C1 and have English as their mother tongue.

The figures show that 35% of people participating in learning a new language aim to use their new skills on holiday or while travelling. 26% learn a new language for personal development, 22% as a leisure interest, and 25% said it was for employment purposes.

While the majority of language learning takes place informally,18% of all adults learning a new language do so by attending a course.

Sue Meyer, NIACE Director for Programmes and Policy and a co-author of the survey, said “Language learning in the UK is complicated and there is much to celebrate ““ a huge number of languages are spoken, more people have more than one language yet different groups have different motivations and patterns of learning.”

She added, “The state of language seems healthy, but future prospects are less good. The priority given to the skills strategy appears to be squeezing out languages. There is a reduction in the numbers wanting to learn languages in the future, particularly in the 17-19 age groups, probably the first cohort to have missed compulsory language learning to 16 at school. Moreover, as usual, age and class patterns in language learning persist, apart from among those learning English. Breaking those patterns is the essential challenge for all involved in language provision.”

Survey asks what do adults really want to learn?

A second survey in Hampshire found languages to be the most popular choice when adults were asked what they most wanted to learn.

The survey provided a rare opportunity for learners to tell an education provider what they would like to learn, highlighting courses way beyond the usual range of adult and community learning.

The most requested topics show how much people want to communicate, with languages coming top, with PC skills and digital photography completing the top 3.

The Jeffery-Machin Foundation, the new adult education charity for Hampshire, carried out the survey asking adults across the county, “What do YOU want to learn?” The results show a diverse range of subjects people would like to study.

Those taking part suggested an incredible 145 different subjects. Some of the unusual suggestions included archaeology, tango, cosmology and poultry keeping.

The top five most requested subjects were Languages (12.9%), PC Skills (12.5%), Digital Photography (9.2%), Art & Crafts (7.6%) and Local History (6.8)

The survey was carried out online and via the distribution of 70,000 leaflets and was undertaken to find out what courses the Jeffery-Machin Foundation should run, to ensure they cater for all people across Hampshire.

The Foundation is announcing summer taster courses, including a weekend of one day courses, a 3-day “Absolute Beginners” guide to digital imaging with Photoshop Elements and a Local History course on how to trace history of houses and occupants.

From September The Jeffery-Machin Foundation will have a new permanent home in Portsmouth, offering a range of courses reflecting those requested in the survey. Full details will be announced later this summer.

John Williams, Director of the Jeffery-Machin Foundation said, “We”ve had such imaginative, forward-thinking responses from all sectors of the community. The Jeffery-Machin Foundation will be able to provide courses people actually want.”

Tim Arnold, Events Manager of The Jeffery-Machin Foundation said, “We”re already putting some of the most requested courses in place, making sure we full the aims of the Jeffery-Machin Foundation, to provide innovative, challenging and inclusive learning opportunities.”Michelle Gagan, Chris Mitchell

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