Heathrow press releases

06 April, 2017

Heathrow identifies the languages children should learn for future success

Easter 1


Heathrow helps inspire kids to learn languages this Easter 


•    868,000 passengers expected to travel through the airport over Easter weekend with 200,000 extra families set to travel through Heathrow 
•    French, German and Mandarin identified by economic experts as the languages Britain’s children should learn for optimum success in ten years’ time
•    45% of British parents admit their children can’t speak a second language yet language skills will add £500 billion to the UK economy in the next ten years 


With Heathrow expecting a record 868,000 passengers over Easter weekend and 200,000 extra families set to travel, the UK’s hub airport today announced its Little Linguists initiative, which aims to inspire children to learn new languages.


In partnership with the Centre for Economics and Business Research and Opinium, Heathrow has studied the role languages currently play in children’s lives as well as identifying the languages children should learn to set them up for maximum opportunities in adulthood. The findings revealed French, German and Mandarin as the three languages that should be learnt to best set kids up for life in ten years’ time, with language skills expected to add up to £500 billion to the economy by 2027.


In a new survey of over 2,000 UK adults with children under 18, results found that kids up and down the country aren’t making the most of the opportunities languages present them with. Nearly half (45%) of parents have children who can’t speak a second language*, with nearly one in five children (19%) not interested in learning new languages while one in ten (10%) say they find it too difficult. 


The overwhelming majority (85%) of parents believe it is important for children to speak a second language. More than one in four (27%) suggest that this will enhance career opportunities and  boost employability benefitting from more opportunity to pursue careers overseas. 


To help inspire children to learn new languages, Heathrow has developed the ‘Little Linguists’ initiative, working with founder of Bilingualism Matters and Professor of Developmental Linguistics at Edinburgh University, Antonella Sorace. The airport has created packs of Mr Adventure themed flashcards, available for families to download online or pick up for free at information desks across all terminals airside over the Easter holidays. 


The cards feature a series of simple phrases to introduce kids to French, German and Mandarin. The airports’ Passenger Ambassadors, or ‘Language Ambassadors’ will also be on hand to help kids practice their new skills, speaking 39 languages between them. Families can simply look out for members of the team wearing language ambassador badges who will be ready and willing to help get children practicing their skills.


Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “Easter at Heathrow brings huge numbers of families together to discover exciting languages, cultures and experiences. We hope this gives them a fun and educational start to their holiday, and inspires our future generation of little global explorers.”


Professor of Developmental Linguistics at Edinburgh University and Director of Bilingualism Matters, Antonella Sorace said: “This research demonstrates how important language learning is to the UK economy, and shows that many more doors are opened to people who learn a second language as children. We believe that language learning is hugely beneficial for children’s development and it’s a real investment for the future: children who are exposed to different languages become more aware of different cultures, other people and other points of view. They also tend to be better than monolinguals at ‘multitasking’ and often are more advanced readers. Bilingualism gives children so much more than just two languages so it’s fantastic to see that Heathrow is helping to get kids inspired about learning languages this Easter.” 


As well as the Little Linguists initiative, the airport has a number of family-friendly offers during the Easter holidays, including ‘kids eat free’ at restaurants, soft play areas and appearances by Mr Adventure himself. To learn more about Heathrow’s range of family friendly initiatives visit: http://www.heathrow.com/family.




*Speaking a second language at an elementary level defined as being able to fulfil basic conversational needs, such as introducing yourself, ordering meals, asking the time, or asking for directions

To download the Little Linguists with Mr Adventure Flashcards, please visit www.heathrow.com

*Research conducted by Opinium on behalf of Heathrow between 17 to 24 February 2017 based on a survey of 2,001 parents with children under 18 and a separate survey of more than 500 business leaders across the UK on their views of the value of foreign language skills.


Language learning tips for children
Professor of Developmental Linguistics at Edinburgh University and Director of Bilingualism Matters, Antonella Sorace has shared her top five tips on helping children learn a second language:

1.    Teach through repetition to help your kids become familiar with the way the new words sound
Hearing words and phrases repeated in different ways and in different situations helps children to remember them better and to figure out how the language works.

2.    Play games in the foreign language to keep learning fun (e.g. Pictionary, I Spy)
Children don’t need language lessons – they learn more if they are having fun! Games can help to get them more engaged with the new language.

3.    The more input from native speakers, the better so holidays are the perfect time to practice
Hearing languages spoken by different native speakers is good for language learning because it helps children to better learn the grammar and the pronunciation of words and phrases. 

4.    Encourage kids to watch TV shows and listen to pop music from the country of the language they are learning
Chatting with native speakers is not the only way children can be exposed to the sounds of a new language – listening to music lyrics teaches children how the language is constructed and helps them to develop authentic communication skills which make them sound more like a native speaker.

5.    Be positive! Support and encourage your child when they are learning a new language
Positive interest and enthusiasm about the language your child is learning will give them confidence and makes the whole process much more enjoyable. Why not try holding dedicated language learning nights where you practice speaking the language all together over dinner?


Nadia Vere
Senior Press Officer