Friday

22nd Nov 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 20 year's of archives. 30-day 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 parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us