Second language education in Europe by country

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Figaro has an article here from yesterday with a short summary of the approach of each EU country (plus Norway) on second-language education. It goes like this:



  • Norway - starts at age 6, language English
  • Sweden - starts at age 7 or 10, language English
  • Finland - starts between 7 and 9, language English
  • Estonia - starts at 7 or 10, language unspecified
  • Latvia - starts at age 9, language unspecified
  • Lithuania - starts at age 10, language unspecified
  • Poland - starts at age 10, language unspecified
  • Denmark - starts at age 9, language unspecified
  • UK - starts at age 11, language unspecified
  • Ireland - not obligatory
  • Germany - starts at age 8 or 10, language English
  • Netherlands - starts at age 10, language English
  • French Belgium - starts at age 10, language unspecified
  • German Belgium - starts at age 3, language French
  • Dutch Belgium - starts at age 10, language French or English
  • France - starts at age 7 or 8, language unspecified
  • Spain - starts at age 3 or 8, language unspecified
  • Portugal - starts at age 8 or 10, language unspecified
  • Italy - starts at age 6, language English
  • Czech Republic - starts at age 8, language unspecified
  • Slovakia - starts at age 10, language unspecified
  • Austria - starts at age 6, language unspecified
  • Slovenia - starts at age 9, language unspecified
  • Hungary - starts at age 9, language unspecified
  • Romania - starts at age 8, language unspecified
  • Bulgaria - starts at age 8, language unspecified
  • Greece - starts at age 8, language English
  • Malta - starts at age 5, language English
  • Cyprus - starts at age 9, language French or English

The map there is colour-coded by starting age but since it seems to vary quite a bit it doesn't seem to be a very useful way to divide it up. One interesting trend is that most Germanic countries (Austria is the exception) have English as a mandatory first language, while Romance and Slavic countries don't tend to choose one (except Italy). That may be due to the fact that there is no dominant Romance language in the EU or the world, and while Russian is the largest Slavic language it's not part of the EU so one could easily make the argument that Polish is just as useful a Slavic language for an EU citizen.

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