Eurostat poll: adults that do not speak a foreign language most common in Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, and France

Saturday, September 26, 2009

An article here in French has a blur of statistics from a recent Eurostat survey on foreign languages, which can be seen here (PDF). Some of the numbers the article references:

The French are among the back of the class in Europe in terms of knowledge of foreign language, but the future is darker in Great Britain, where one half of students in upper secondary education haven't learned a single foreign language, according to Eurostat on Thursday.

According to the office of statistics of the European Union, France, where 41.2% of adults from age 25 to 64 speak no foreign language. This is sixth from the back, and this number increases to 43% for Greece, 44% for Bulgaria, 47% in Spain, 51% in Portugal, and 74.8% (!) for Hungary.

In average, 36% of Europeans between ages 25 and 64 have not learned a foreign language, 36% speak one foreign language, and 28% say they know two or more.

The best in this class is Norway where 74.7% of adults say they have learned two or more foreign languages, followed by Slovenians (71.8%) and Belgians (51.5%). Only 22.9% of those in France say they have learned two or more foreign languages, and 35.9% say that they know one.

In most European countries, an increasing majority of students in upper secondary education (almost 100% in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland) learn at least two foreign languages. In the UK this is only 6.1%.
The article doesn't mention that the survey was incomplete though, which is why it says that Norway is the top country for adults that speak two or more foreign languages - that's because Luxembourg wasn't included in the part of the survey that featured adults. But it was in the part focusing on students which is why Luxembourg is at the top (along with some other countries) there. It would probably be best to take a look at the PDF then.

The interesting part would probably be Hungary with 74.8% of adults not speaking a foreign language, as this would seem to fly in the face of the idea that speakers of smaller languages necessarily feel the need to learn others. France, Spain and Portugal make perfect sense given their large geographic distribution, but Hungary only has 15 million speakers and official in but a single country. And even among students, Hungary is only at 41.8% in terms of those learning two or more. Perhaps the answer is just that Hungarian happens to be so awesome that you just aren't interested in other languages after knowing it. Yes, we'll go with that as the explanation.

That's also good news for those that want to learn Hungarian, since often the biggest barrier to learning a language for English speakers is the fact that it's so easy to find an English speaker. With 74.8% of adults only knowing Hungarian in Hungary that means the vast majority of the time you're likely to stumble upon someone that doesn't know English, and that's great for those that want to immerse themselves in a language.


Anonymous said...

I'm a Hungarian. shame on us!:)) the truth is that Hungarians are lazy as shit.. and belonging absolutely to no other bigger language family as latin or slavic does'nt help either...

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