SCILT is committed to supporting research into languages education at local, national and international level.

Statistics on languages in Scotland

SCILT publish an annual analysis of published SQA statistics on language trends in Scottish schools.

For access to Trends from previous years, please contact SCILT.

In 2014, the University Council for Modern Languages Scotland (UCMLS) and SCILT began a three-year collaboration to promote languages and language learning. Four initiatives were set up: 

  • Business Brunches: an event for pupils aged 14-15 where they meet and hear from employers who value language skills
  • Language Linking Global Thinking: an initiative that links students about to go abroad as part of their studies, with a class in the upper primary or lower secondary school
  • Mother Tongue Other Tongue: a multilingual poetry competition
  • Word Wizard: a spelling competition for learners in the lower secondary school in French, Spanish, German, Gaelic (Learners) and Mandarin. 

This evaluation reports on the impact of these initiatives on learner attitudes and uptake in the upper secondary phase after a three-year collaboration from 2014- 15 up to 2016-17.

Read Working together for languages: Evaluation of four collaborative language promotional initiatives (2019)

  • Girls were more likely than boys to report choosing or intending to study a language other than English.
  • Young people from rural areas were significantly more likely than those from urban areas to report that they had chosen or intended to study a language subject.
  • The percentage of young people reporting that they had chosen or were intending to study a language decreased between S1 and S5. However, this number increases again in S6.
  • The most common reason for choosing to study a language was because the young person enjoyed it.

Highlights from the Young People in Scotland Survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI and published in March 2018. Find out more in the extract of these findings.

  • Most people in Scotland (89%) think that learning a language other than English in school from the age of five is important. This was regardless of people’s age, educational qualifications, or socio-economic status.
  • The most common languages that people in Scotland think are appropriate for children in their area to learn are Western European languages.

Highlights from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, carried out by Scotcen Social Research and published in February 2016. Find out more in the extract of these findings.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is the national accreditation and awarding body in Scotland. For the most recent data on all qualifications and subjects, including data on entries and awards for qualifications in languages, please refer to the following on the SQA website:

For information on how many Secondary specialist language teachers there are in Scotland, please refer to the data from the Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland No 8 (Scottish Government, December 2017):

Data from the Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland No 8 (Scottish Government, December 2017) indicate the top 5 home languages in 2017, other than English, were Polish, Urdu, Scots, Punjabi and Arabic. A total of 158 languages were spoken as the main home language by pupils in publicly funded schools in Scotland. 53,052 pupils were identified whose main home language was neither English, Gaelic, Scots, Doric nor Sign Language. The greatest number of these pupils attend schools in Glasgow.

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

Navigate to the Standard Outputs menu and select ‘Ethnicity, Identity, Language and Religion’ to access the following tables:

  • 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:

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