Those looking for love today should brush up on their language skills, according to new research. A Populus poll conducted on behalf of the British Council shows that around half (47%) of UK adults believe an additional language skill is attractive in a potential romantic partner.

All you need is love

The UK public’s affection for multi-lingual declarations of love, means over half (56%) can say ‘I love you’ in a foreign language, according to the poll of 2000 adults. The research shows that although enthusiastic about the big Valentine’s Day statements, the public falters when it comes to more nuanced communication. Just 11% could say the phrase ‘Will you go out with me?” in any language other than English.

Over two thirds (69%) believe where one half of a couple speaks an additional language, the relationship can be strengthened if a partner learns that particular language, even where English is shared by both partners.

What are the most romantic languages?

There is some discrepancy between the sexes when it comes to the most romantic language. Men say it’s French, while women prefer Italian. Around a third of all respondents are united however, in their pursuit of a language for a lover; 34% of respondents would contemplate learning another language if it might result in romance.

Overall, Italian topped the poll as the most romantic language (25%) when listed along nine others, with French following closely behind in second place (23%).

British Council Schools Advisor, Vicky Gough, says:
“Love, romance and relationships are really good reasons to learn a foreign language. After all, learning a second language opens doors to new cultures and peoples.
“It’s fine saying ‘I love you’ to someone in a foreign language, but it’s better if you can tell them why. That’s why language learning is so important – you’re not going to make that connection just using a phone translator.”

Is the UK’s love affair with languages over?

Previous research shows that last year 1 in 5 of the population planned to make learning a language their new year’s resolution. However, last year the British Council’s 2018 Language Trends Survey found that in 2017 only 47% of pupils in the UK sat a modern language GCSE, compared to 76% in 2002.

The survey published today was commissioned by the British Council – the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. The British Council work with more than 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society.

How to avoid becoming lost in translation

The UK public’s void when it comes to language skills highlights the importance of effective translation when it comes to international research too. In most cases, translation quality is the key reason for errors that can occur in global research. Populus takes questionnaire translation very seriously for this reason. View our Golden Rules for International Research here.

Populus is a full service research and strategy consultancy that delivers a range of solutions in over 75 countries worldwide. Find out more by emailing or calling +44 (0)20 7253 9900.

Download the full data tables here.


Populus conducted an online omnibus survey of 2,154 UK adults aged 18+ between 1st and 3rd February 2019.