The 1,000 Words challenge: Britons 'should learn 1,000 words of a new language' to compete in jobs market

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Everyone in Britain should learn 1,000 words of another language, a new campaign is urging, amid concerns that people lose out on jobs abroad because of poor language skills.

The 1,000 Words Challenge aims to to tackle the UK's reputation for an aversion to learning foreign languages, which it says puts generations at risk of losing out on business ventures, employment opportunities and intellectual growth.

The Speak to the Future funded initiative argues that British tourists travelling abroad would receive a much warmer reception as "we would appear less arrogant and better able to put forward our ideas on the international stage".

According to the campaign, a vocabulary of 1,000 words would allow a speaker to conduct a basic conversation in their chosen language.

Data highlighted by organisers of the initiative show numbers of students taking GCSE French and German have fallen by over fifty per cent in the last decade.

Eastenders actor Larry Lamb voiced his support for the challenge. "As a working-class lad from north London, learning French opened up the world for me … If ordinary children are discouraged from learning languages, it weakens our society," he said.

Richard Hardie, the chair of Swiss global finance group UBS said he was "strongly backing" the campaign. He said: "It is vital that we speak out in order to reverse the calamitous decline in language study of recent years."

The challenge is endorsed by the British Academy and Routes into Languages, among other embassies and language bodies.