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How much will people spend on learning a new language and why?

December 1st, 2015 by Anna Michaelidou

Being fluent in a second language offers many benefits and opportunities for all ages; but learning a new language takes time and dedication. It is not that it is necessarily a difficult task; it is merely understanding that language skills are a habit that can be developed through discipline and practice. Did you know that there are approximately 7000 languages in the world today? Let's have a quick look at the distribution of world languages by area and origin.

Distribution of world languages by area of origin

Area Living languages Number of speakers
Count Percent Total Percent Mean Median
Total 7,102 100.0 6,291,192,624 100.0 885,834 7,000
Africa 2,138 30.1 815,252,580 13.0 381,316 27,500
Americas 1,064 15.0 51,527,759 0.8 48,428 1,160
Asia 2,301 32.4 3,779,634,812 60.1 1,642,605 12,000
Europe 286 4.0 1,637,993,977 26.0 5,727,252 35,600
Pacific 1,313 18.5 6,783,496 0.1 5,166 950

Source: http://www.ethnologue.com/statistics

That's a lot of languages! Asia has the most amount of languages with 32.4% and over 2300 living languages with Africa not far behind with just over 30% and over 2100 living languages. Europe has the least with only 4% and a mere 286 living languages although the amount of total speakers in Europe is the second highest after Asia. Learning another language opens you up to a whole new world; although the people of the UK may be inclined to disagree. The UK, along with many other countries that speak English as their primary language, seem to be content to get by with being monoglots!

The UK especially seems to support this idea that one language is enough. An interesting article in The Economist states:

Incentives to learn languages in Britain remain frustratingly haphazard. Primary schools are not required to teach a foreign language. Steve Smith, a teacher and blogger on language trends, notes that the university admissions system no longer treats a language as a core requirement.

And according to a British Council report:

It is a widely held - if not undisputed - view that the UK is lacking in the necessary language skills for the future, partly because of the status of English as the language of international communications.

So it seems we British appear to believe that there is no need to learn another language; are we opposed to the idea of broadening our horizons and allowing language culture into our lives? Is it simply because we don't have the time? Or maybe we feel learning a new language is too expensive?

Well, First Tutors has taken on the role of finding out how much people will spend on learning a new language and why. Obviously taking on over 7000 new languages would make for a rather long article so we've broken it down to four languages:

  1. German
  2. French
  3. Spanish
  4. Mandarin

Why these languages (other than having to narrow it down a lot)? According to list25.com and an article they wrote back in 2012 on "The 25 Most Influential Languages in the world" these four languages were ranked in their top 10 list:

German

There are approximately 120 million German speakers in the world and list25 ranked German the 8th most influential language. They say:

With about 120 million speakers German has undergone some wild fluctuations over the course of the last century. Typically, it has been the language of science and industry with technically oriented students around the globe having to learn it in order to pursue their careers. Although after the World Wars it inevitably lost influence, as one of the worlds strongest economies Germany still exerts considerable influence.

French

The same article states that French is the second most influential language in the world; giving English the number one spot:

Although it has lost considerable ground to English over the course of the last century, French is still the second most influential language in the world. With official language status in 25 countries it is the most popular lingua franca after English and is used by many international groups and organizations.

Spanish

Spanish comes in at number 3 according to list25:

Although no where near English in terms of global influence, Spanish is rapidly gaining on French. It has almost 400 million native speakers, is the lingua franca of close to twenty countries, and is spoken all over the world as a second language. Also, as Latin America comes into its own on the world stage Spanish will inevitably gain influence.

Mandarin

And not surprisingly seeing as China has such a large population, Mandarin is ranked at number 5 on this list:

There are two reasons that Mandarin is #5 on this list. First, it has close to a billion native speakers, which is almost three times as much as any other language. The truth is, however, that it really isn't spoken anywhere beyond Southeast Asia other than in Taiwan or Chinese communities in other parts of the world. So, although at present it is not very influential in a global sense, due to a robust economy it very well may begin to flex its muscles in the near future.

In addition to this research another article by K International on "The Top Languages to Learn in 2015", Mandarin was at number 1, followed by Spanish at number 3, German at number 4 and French at number 7.

And the British Council compiled a list of the ten most important languages for the UK's future:

Rank Language
1 Spanish
2 Arabic
3 French
4 Mandarin
5 German
6 Portuguese
7 Italian
8= Russian
8= Turkish
10 Japanese

Source: https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/languages-for-the-future-report.pdf

All four of these languages appear to be on the top ten lists of many important lists and articles so we reached out to some of our students to get some answers about the why they are learning their chosen language. We got some interesting feedback.

Statistics

The following graph shows the number of requests students made to learn one of the four stated languages. The figures are from the First Tutors languages site from 2012 to 2015.

Number of Requests made per Subject

The table shows a large increase in students requesting French, Spanish and German and aside for a short fall in 2014-2015 Mandarin also showed a much higher percentage than in 2012-2013.

As we can see the figures are growing for each year with the most students enquiring about Spanish for 2015. The figures also interestingly show a jump in demand for Mandarin language lessons in 2014 with 280 students enquiring compared with only 37 students in 2012. This seems to have declined slightly in 2015.

The graph below shows the percentages of students that made these requests and actually went on to study their chosen language.

Percentage of Students Studying by Language

Spanish is the most popular in 2015 with nearly 50% of the students that requested information going on to actually study compared to 40% of French in 2012. Germany seems to be steady, changing only 1-2%, whilst Mandarin saw an increase from 2012 to 2014 but dropped again slightly in 2015.

So what did our students have to say about why they are learning their chosen language?

French Students answers:

  • My long term aim is to reach a level of business proficiency ideally by summer 2016 so that I can work abroad.
  • Help for GCSE verbal and written examinations.
  • I lived and worked in France for 3 years but that was quite a long time ago and I need to brush up on my grammar / verbs and also learn some technical language for work.

German Students answers:

  • I am looking for a tutor for German as me and my partner are moving to Switzerland in January.
  • Learning a language as part of the skills requirement for Duke of Edinburgh gold.
  • I am due to Nanny for an English family living in Germany. Being able to speak the language will help me with my day to day duties. I also think it would be great to be bilingual in the future.

Spanish Students answers:

  • My girlfriend and I are going on holiday to Spain for three weeks over Christmas. Whenever we travel we like to mingle with the locals as much as possible, therefore we would like to learn some of the language.
  • I really struggle with my GCSE spoken Spanish. It's great to have a tutor who speaks Spanish as their first language to help me with my pronunciation.
  • Emigrating Abroad.

Mandarin Students answers:

  • I'm taking part in an International Education Exchange called Teach In China. I want to learn whilst I am abroad but having experience of the basics before I leave will help give me an idea of what is to come...
  • I want to learn an additional language and heard that Mandarin is one of the easiest. I'm only a beginner but I am hopeful that in time to come I will be able to speak the basics.

So there are a wide variety of reasons that people take up learning a new language; going on holiday, exam preparation, emigrating, career prospects, awards and much more.

Benefits of learning a new language

Today we live in a global society and knowing a second, third or fourth language has a world of benefits. Let's take a look at how learning a language can benefit you:

  • Boosts Brain Power

    Learning a new language means learning a whole new detailed and refined system of rules, structures, words and vocabulary. Your brain will need to cope with these complex new terms it's being introduced to and it learns to work out these new methods of communication. By learning a new language we are training our brains to develop new and better critical thinking and learning skills whilst boosting our problem solving skills at the same time.

  • Improves Memory

    When learning a new language we are required to not only memorise the rules and vocabulary but also to be able to recall the information we have learnt and use it in the right way. The more you use your brain the better it is able to function; this applies greatly to the memory parts of our brains. By giving your brain a whole new structure to absorb and take in you are extending the lifespan of your memory and keeping it fit and healthy.

  • Increases listening ability

    You become a better listener when you are learning a new language as you get used to having to interpret meanings and listen carefully to interpretations.

  • Improves academic skills

    Learning a new language has the important benefit of boosting your academic skills and your ability to better solve problems. Bilingual children often do better in core subjects such as Maths and English as a result of higher cognitive skills.

  • Helps you meet new people

    One of the great advantages of learning a foreign language is the opening of doors to meeting new people. How many times have you been abroad and said to yourself "I'd love to be able to talk to that person / order food / get directions in their language"? Or simply "I'd love to know what they are saying"?

    I remember when I first moved abroad and couldn't speak a word of Italian. As I learnt the language, everything about the place I was living in became so much more appealing. It's amazing how much more people will open up to you if you speak their language!

  • You can brag about being bilingual

    Bilingual individuals have a tendency to be more rational and logical with better decision-making skills than those of a monoglot. Just being able to say you are bilingual is enough to give your pride a bit of a boost.

  • Better career prospects

    How many times have you seen an advertisement for the perfect job only to scroll down and read must be competent / fluent in Polish? Today's world is a very competitive market and learning a new foreign language might just give you the edge over someone else.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of learning a foreign language. Encouraging children to learn a language from an early age where they easily absorb new information is definitely something all parents should consider.

What are the costs?

We asked our tutors what age groups they normally teach and from all four categories we had an average age group of between 7 years and 65 years. This proves that you can never be too young or too old to learn a new language!

So, what are the costs of language lessons? There are many ways of learning a new language including:

  • Audio books
  • Self-teaching books
  • Internet courses
  • Private Tuition

Of all of the above methods the best guaranteed way of learning a new foreign language effectively and within a reasonable time-scale is with a private tutor. One-to-one conversations with a native speaker are far more constructive and give a more personal touch to learning the language. Anyone trying to learn a foreign language will tell you that the best way forward is to learn to speak the language with a native speaker on a regular basis rather than trying to go it alone.

The great thing with finding a tutor is that they will schedule lessons around your time-scale and you will have the option of attending these lessons in the comfort of your own home, at the tutor's home or even online via Skype.

In terms of how much these lessons cost, First Tutors took the initiative of finding out how much each of the four pre-mentioned languages cost around the UK. Let's take a look at the table below to see the average costs of a private tutor for each lesson in your chosen language. These statistics were taken from September 2014 to September 2015 for 35 different cities across the UK. Highlighted in each chart are the four different languages and their respective prices dependant on location.

Key: Spanish French German Mandarin

Area of the UK Level at which the language is taught
Primary Secondary GCSE A-Level University Casual
London Borough of Bexley £28.58 £28.58 £31.11 £32.12 £29.13 £30.61
£23.06 £25.13 £26.77 £31.49 £27.27 £28.34
£27.37 £26.24 £30.50 £30.50 £30.50 £31.72
£29.00 £25.40 £27.77 £32.67 £32.04 £31.04
London Borough of Bromley £26.61 £28.57 £31.51 £26.82 £35.73 £28.28
£22.44 £27.37 £28.11 £32.84 £32.84 £28.67
£29.50 £29.50 £29.99 £29.99 £30.44 £30.37
£26.06 £26.87 £26.27 £30.67 £31.07 £31.44
London Borough of Enfield £26.61 £24.25 £30.06 £31.67 £35.73 £28.28
£29.07 £29.50 £30.87 £32.91 £27.87 £30.20
£22.07 £27.33 £28.57 £31.51 £26.82 £27.93
£26.33 £25.87 £29.87 £29.87 £32.07 £30.33
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames £29.15 £29.83 £32.82 £37.68 £40.20 £35.57
£29.15 £29.83 £32.82 £37.68 £40.20 £35.57
£27.77 £27.07 £28.43 £32.34 £29.33 £29.38
£28.96 £28.94 £29.75 £35.67 £36.67 £33.12
London Borough of Redbridge £26.10 £29.05 £30.21 £33.68 £33.68 £27.52
£27.50 £28.26 £29.15 £34.31 £34.31 £30.61
£27.77 £27.33 £28.57 £31.51 £26.82 £27.93
£25.42 £25.53 £26.27 £28.47 £33.12 £29.53
London Borough of Sutton £26.10 £28.83 £30.49 £32.26 £33.87 £29.56
£24.87 £29.69 £30.36 £36.50 £37.67 £37.67
£27.27 £25.03 £27.51 £30.67 £30.67 £28.82
£28.00 £28.00 £30.93 £32.67 £32.07 £33.00
Birmingham £23.58 £22.50 £26.83 £23.46 £30.01 £26.66
£19.29 £22.99 £21.10 £22.81 £26.32 £22.71
£22.18 £24.01 £23.45 £27.14 £27.29 £24.91
£22.14 £23.63 £21.58 £26.68 £28.08 £23.78
Bournemouth £23.00 £23.92 £25.47 £24.85 £30.66 £23.95
£23.00 £23.92 £25.47 £24.85 £30.66 £23.95
£22.07 £22.07 £23.34 £26.15 £26.82 £25.22
£17.62 £21.25 £21.75 £23.50 £20.00 £20.38
Bradford £18.12 £19.73 £20.74 £22.57 £30.66 £35.74
£21.13 £21.13 £23.36 £26.82 £27.87 £23.41
£20.64 £22.31 £24.09 £26.46 £26.82 £25.41
£20.94 £21.25 £23.11 £23.50 £23.77 £22.80
Buckinghamshire £27.62 £27.13 £28.53 £29.40 £39.00 £39.00
£29.67 £30.13 £32.56 £36.05 £35.00 £36.25
£26.91 £25.33 £26.95 £30.74 £30.74 £29.39
£28.72 £29.15 £27.83 £33.44 £30.13 £27.33
Calderdale £19.13 £20.52 £20.52 £19.04 £25.78 £22.90
£23.96 £21.63 £23.90 £29.09 £29.09 £25.40
£22.49 £23.08 £22.20 £26.46 £26.86 £26.86
£23.89 £24.46 £24.67 £24.67 £67.72 £66.30
Cumbria £22.91 £27.06 £28.94 £28.62 £29.36 £25.42
£21.92 £22.20 £24.00 £26.67 £31.30 £24.09
£22.06 £23.56 £24.75 £26.73 £27.03 £24.75
£24.10 £26.51 £26.72 £28.75 £29.90 £26.36
Derbyshire £18.12 £21.96 £23.51 £24.36 £26.70 £22.31
£20.70 £22.66 £20.98 £25.76 £26.80 £22.59
£22.15 £22.90 £24.03 £24.43 £27.16 £24.89
£24.24 £26.53 £26.84 £28.09 £28.80 £23.68
Essex £21.96 £23.67 £26.60 £28.18 £28.18 £24.50
£21.71 £21.27 £22.62 £24.13 £27.87 £25.13
£22.77 £23.22 £25.36 £27.97 £29.17 £26.63
£25.12 £28.20 £28.26 £30.75 £28.99 £30.16
Exeter £20.44 £21.62 £23.34 £23.83 £24.92 £22.96
£22.49 £24.25 £25.57 £29.19 £27.77 £27.70
£22.49 £24.25 £25.57 £29.19 £27.77 £27.20
£24.16 £27.11 £27.21 £28.57 £29.10 £26.88
Gloucestershire £20.89 £21.91 £24.97 £23.55 £24.55 £23.38
£22.33 £23.30 £24.35 £28.45 £26.01 £26.40
£22.86 £23.93 £24.98 £26.76 £28.90 £25.63
£22.22 £25.11 £28.21 £31.93 £35.44 £25.63
Hertfordshire £23.35 £24.60 £25.65 £28.11 £28.23 £26.34
£26.34 £27.08 £27.99 £29.68 £29.45 £28.81
£23.23 £24.68 £26.72 £28.08 £28.87 £28.05
£27.61 £28.78 £30.31 £31.20 £30.71 £27.90
Kirklees £19.04 £21.79 £21.61 £22.66 £23.51 £21.25
£23.05 £24.24 £24.06 £25.89 £22.94 £24.40
£20.85 £21.69 £22.23 £25.37 £24.34 £23.55
£20.23 £22.55 £23.29 £24.01 £26.25 £23.18
Lancashire £18.89 £20.32 £23.01 £21.90 £22.10 £21.23
£20.72 £23.47 £24.45 £19.51 £27.87 £25.72
£22.07 £21.53 £24.76 £26.44 £26.82 £23.57
£20.45 £21.18 £23.14 £28.26 £28.99 £22.03
Lincolnshire £20.40 £21.93 £25.39 £27.17 £28.60 £22.37
£23.45 £23.55 £27.13 £29.67 £28.84 £25.60
£21.04 £23.62 £21.86 £26.24 £27.45 £24.74
£26.03 £27.81 £28.32 £30.10 £30.57 £27.03
Liverpool £20.93 £22.30 £22.50 £22.87 £30.66 £21.33
£23.96 £23.96 £23.93 £25.62 £27.87 £24.59
£22.07 £23.08 £22.40 £22.40 £22.40 £25.19
£20.20 £25.65 £27.09 £28.26 £28.99 £22.86
Medway £23.64 £24.85 £26.29 £25.26 £25.86 £25.20
£24.83 £24.57 £27.98 £28.99 £28.67 £26.33
£23.74 £23.96 £24.42 £26.51 £26.92 £25.78
£26.12 £25.32 £28.92 £29.33 £32.65 £27.63
North Yorkshire £21.30 £23.55 £25.43 £24.43 £27.31 £23.29
£23.96 £24.76 £26.53 £29.09 £27.87 £26.94
£22.47 £23.11 £24.00 £26.40 £27.27 £25.69
£24.20 £27.76 £27.61 £30.04 £30.57 £26.11
Plymouth £20.61 £22.99 £24.87 £25.63 £28.13 £22.48
£30.79 £23.58 £24.89 £28.08 £25.98 £25.54
£21.13 £22.77 £23.81 £25.29 £26.43 £25.53
£29.11 £29.89 £25.74 £29.28 £29.80 £30.23
Poole £23.00 £23.92 £25.47 £24.85 £27.31 £23.95
£22.55 £23.90 £26.44 £27.45 £25.98 £26.64
£21.13 £23.96 £23.34 £26.15 £26.92 £25.22
£17.62 £21.25 £27.09 £21.75 £23.50 £20.38
Reading £23.63 £26.16 £26.21 £30.71 £32.33 £28.98
£25.72 £26.73 £28.73 £30.31 £28.13 £29.00
£25.69 £26.06 £25.80 £30.40 £27.44 £28.14
£23.40 £25.66 £26.30 £26.92 £26.31 £25.14
Stoke on Trent £20.79 £23.16 £25.73 £24.76 £25.64 £23.97
£23.85 £23.31 £22.45 £27.86 £26.31 £25.13
£20.19 £21.66 £23.28 £26.18 £28.25 £26.67
£22.05 £24.35 £26.19 £28.48 £29.18 £26.49
Telford and Wrekin £22.60 £24.60 £23.01 £26.31 £27.40 £24.36
£22.18 £24.20 £25.37 £28.42 £26.77 £26.66
£18.63 £21.02 £21.30 £24.98 £27.25 £26.37
£26.03 £27.81 £28.98 £30.10 £30.57 £27.03
Torbay £20.43 £21.70 £23.47 £23.68 £23.77 £22.24
£22.10 £23.80 £24.65 £28.26 £28.08 £26.13
£20.45 £23.26 £24.25 £26.97 £31.95 £26.32
£24.63 £25.52 £25.91 £27.13 £26.95 £25.14
Trafford £19.18 £20.33 £21.47 £21.94 £23.63 £21.22
£20.97 £23.07 £22.27 £28.26 £26.13 £23.20
£21.49 £23.09 £23.26 £26.97 £26.97 £26.28
£19.83 £21.25 £23.11 £28.26 £28.99 £23.29
Walsall £24.62 £29.98 £27.14 £29.84 £29.80 £24.71
£21.69 £25.44 £24.74 £29.99 £24.67 £23.81
£20.03 £21.55 £22.58 £26.47 £27.93 £26.19
£21.20 £23.23 £25.33 £27.20 £28.41 £24.85
Warwickshire £19.39 £19.08 £22.65 £24.11 £26.43 £22.83
£21.05 £21.72 £21.78 £25.73 £26.71 £23.37
£24.29 £23.03 £24.23 £29.56 £31.81 £26.00
£21.61 £25.92 £25.23 £26.57 £26.88 £23.34
Wiltshire £21.00 £23.42 £24.85 £25.32 £25.43 £22.64
£23.82 £23.44 £24.94 £28.14 £27.52 £25.95
£22.68 £24.72 £24.31 £25.72 £26.99 £27.42
£22.57 £25.94 £26.08 £27.93 £28.53 £24.75
Wirral £21.35 £23.02 £25.09 £24.82 £26.10 £22.02
£22.05 £23.28 £24.46 £27.45 £27.48 £24.10
£19.30 £21.45 £22.67 £25.09 £28.40 £24.92
£19.61 £21.73 £26.19 £26.96 £29.82 £25.30
Wolverhampton £20.49 £22.98 £23.77 £23.51 £24.57 £22.83
£51.43 £23.09 £22.03 £20.84 £24.90 £22.62
£19.59 £21.91 £23.00 £25.40 £27.25 £26.03
£21.86 £23.49 £23.15 £26.83 £27.79 £24.35

Costs for learning the languages vary with anything from about £18 per lesson to about £68 per lesson depending on the location; although the average cost of a lesson is approximately £24. Where prices appear higher than average, possible reasons could be that there is less demand for the language lessons in that particular area; thus tutors have more of a monopoly and can charge higher than normal. Of course the most expensive lessons appear to average in London but this adheres to the fact that London is generally more expensive than anywhere else in the UK. First Tutors allows you to search for a tutor around your economically feasible price range and choose a tutor that suits your individual needs.

What what advice do our tutors have to offer?

We asked our tutors (we have a database of over 30,000 current tutors available) the following questions and here's what they had to say.

To one of our top tutors of Mandarin:

Do you have any top tips for learning Mandarin?

Listen and speak whenever you can; expose yourself to Chinese. You can do that by writing Chinese words onto the sticky notes and place it onto the object, for example, tea, milk, fridge etc.

Where do most students struggle and what can be done to overcome these challenges?

Students mostly struggle with the pronunciation as it's so different. However I always start off introducing pinyin and create a group of pinyin exercises to help them get used to the difference in tone and in consonants; Secondly students tend to forget words easily. One of the reasons is that how you pronounce the word has nothing to do with how you write it and since not everyone is interested in learning writing characters, hence in their mind, they cannot relate the character with its pronunciation. In which case, whenever I teach a new word (supposedly it's a common word), I would make a few phrases/sentences to give student the context to remember to practice it in. We will practice this new word a number of times on a number of context throughout the lessons.

How many lessons do you need to gain conversational proficiency?

It depends on the age and objective, as a beginner, you are looking to have min 30 hours.

To one of our top tutors of French:

Do you feel tuition demand is in decline?

Tuition demand has been rising steadily in the last couple of years and there is now high demand throughout the year.

Who are your typical clients?

Typical clients would be A level and iGCSE customers and a fair amount of casual learners.

How many lessons do you need to gain conversational proficiency?

It varies greatly depending on students' ability but typically after 6 months, 3 hours a week plus homework, one would be able to converse.

Conclusion

Learning a new foreign language is something more and more people are trying to achieve in today's world. Being able to converse in a language other than your primary tongue can offer you a world of benefits as we have seen. Our research proves that learning a new language can be within anyone's grasp and the reason people choose to do so are obvious.

Aside from the most prominent factors that we have seen, learning a foreign language can boost your confidence and open up a whole new world of people and challenges; giving us more depth as individuals and making our lives all the more interesting. Our communication and social skills will also take new heights. As Nelson Mandela was said:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.

So why wait? Start learning a new foreign language now and reap the benefits! Plus you can book yourself a well-deserved holiday and practice your new way of speaking after about six months! You'll feel more like a local than ever :-)


Post By: Anna Michaelidou

Anna has been a private tutor of both English Literature and English Language for fifteen years having taught all levels from nursery school right through to university level. She has a BA (Hons) Degree in English Literature & Modern Languages, is a writer, content marketing executive and a busy mother of four lovely children.

Categories: Resources