Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Focus

Fewer EU pupils being taught two foreign languages

  • School in Romania, where in 2015 95.2 percent of pupils in lower secondary level were taught two or more foreign languages

The share of EU citizens learning a foreign language at lower secondary level has remained the same in 2015, but learning two foreign languages has become slightly less common, according to figures released by Eurostat on Thursday (23 February).

In 2015, 58.8 percent of all EU pupils at lower secondary level were being taught two or more languages at school. A year earlier, that figure was 59.9 percent.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The downward trend in Germany (from 39.1% to 34.5%) and Italy (98.4% to 95.8%) helped pull the EU average down.

Other countries where the share of pupils learning two foreign languages went down were Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia - although in some cases the drop was less than a percentage point, and eight of those countries were already above the EU average.

"The slight decrease from 2014 to 2015 is due mainly to a decrease in Germany of nearly 5 percentage points - in fact, at EU level the 2015 level equals the 2013 level," EU commission spokeswoman Nathalie Vandystadt told EUobserver.

"In other words, there has not been any significant development in language teaching at lower secondary level," she added.

The EU average excluded the United Kingdom, for which no data has been available this year or last year. Eurostat, a European Commission branch, did not have 2015 data for Denmark and Greece.

Eurostat also counts official languages of a country as foreign.

The share of pupils learning at least one foreign language at lower secondary level remained the same: 98.6 percent.

There were no shifts in the three most popular languages, with English still being taught to 97.3 percent of the pupils. French was second, on 33.8 percent, and German was third on 23.1 percent.

Spanish, taught to 13.1 percent in 2014, was taught to 13.6 percent of pupils a year later.

EU leaders agreed in 2002 that at least two foreign languages should be taught at a very early age.

In 2005 the Commission said in a strategy paper that its “long-term objective is to increase individual multilingualism until every citizen has practical skills in at least two languages in addition to his or her mother tongue”.

As recently as 2014, national governments published a declaration, saying they should "adopt and improve measures aimed at promoting multilingualism", including by "teaching at least two languages in addition to the main language(s) of instruction from an early age".

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us