The UK has a reputation for a general aversion to learning foreign languages. Well, this might change, thanks to a campaign, just recently started, called the 1,000 Words Challenge. This campaign aims at raising awareness about how important competence in languages is for the individual and for the country as a whole.

Basically, the campaign requires Britons to make the commitment to learn 1,000 words of a language other than English. A vocabulary of 1,000 words will allow the learners to understand a language’s structure and to have a basic conversation within that language. Nobody is expecting the British to become fluent in foreign languages overnight; this campaign is about increasing the number of those who understand that their future will be better if they know other languages and, therefore, want to take action.

You can find more about 1,000 Words Challenge here.

Why this campaign should have great results

Personally, I was thrilled when I heard about this campaign. Language skills are an important asset for both personal and professional development for any individual, no matter in which country they were born. English teenagers are ‘the worst in Europe’ at languages, according to the 2013 European Survey on Language Competences. I also blogged about the low numbers of A-levels in foreign languages in the UK and suggested a solution to this issue. I think the 1,000 Words Challenge will be more efficient in dealing with this situation and here is why: because it sets a smart objective. Not just smart, but SMART:

  • Specific – learning 1,000 words of a different language is a clear and unambiguous goal.
  • Measurable – we are dealing here with a number; is there anything that can be more measurable than a number? People will be constantly aware of their individual progress if they regularly count the number of total words learned.
  • Achievable – learning 1,000 words of a language is not an extreme goal; considering that an adult knows more than 10,000 (maybe even more than 20,000) words in their native language, 1,000 in another one seems quite doable.
  • Relevant – this could be the subject of an entire blog post. To name just one supporting argument, it will enhance the UK’s economic prospects and help prepare the British for the globalised workforce.
  • Time-oriented – people who commit to this Challenge will be able to set their own time-frames for it; however, everyone will get the same piece of advice: little and often – 10 minutes a day is better than a hour a week.

‘The hard thing about learning a language is getting started. 1,000 words can easily lead to 5,000 or more, or indeed to 1,000 words in a different language. The benefits for the nation if people are persuaded to take this step will be immense.’

Professor Nigel Vincent, Vice-President for Research and Higher Education at the British Academy.

The biggest journey begins with a first step. Make it. Here are some tips on how you can face this challenge.