EUROPEAN SURVEY ON LANGUAGE COMPETENCE PUBLISHED:

UK BOTTOM OF THE CLASS BUT LATEST EUROBAROMETER SHOWS A DESIRE TO IMPROVE.

The first European Survey on Language Competences shows that 9% of 14-15 year old pupils studying French in England reach the level of being “an independent language user who can deal with straightforward, familiar matters”

The corresponding figure for the 14 countries surveyed – usually for pupils learning English – is 42%. Sweden and Malta reach 82% and the Netherlands 66 %. France is on 14%.

30% of pupils in English schools do not reach the level of “a basic user who can use very simple language, with support”. Here France scores marginally worse, with 31%.

More positively, second language learners (in the case of the UK learners of German) perform relatively better.

A linked Eurobarometer opinion poll on EU citizens’ attitudes towards multilingualism and foreign language learning shows a rather more positive picture . Seventy-two per cent of people in the UK (84% EU-wide) think everyone in the EU should be able to speak at least one other language as well as their mother tongue.

However, only 39% in the UK – a quarter of whom are native speakers of other languages who can converse in English – can in practice have a conversation in a foreign language, according to those polled. This compares to an EU average of 54%.

The UK remains near the bottom of the EU table, despite a one percentage point improvement since 2005. Only Hungary (35% able to speak another language) and Italy (38%) are below. Portugal at 39% is equal with the UK and Ireland marginally above (40%).

For more details see the EU press release here