The EU Statistical Office Eurostat has recently published a news release concerning learning foreign languages at lower secondary level. French is the second most popular language after English.98.6% of lower secondary school pupils – that’s more than 17 million children – were studying at least one foreign language in 2015. Among them, 58.8% were studying two or more languages.
English is the most popular language at schools, studied by 97.3% of pupils, then French (33.8%), followed by German (23.1%) and Spanish (13.6%).
There are 24 official languages within the EU, as well as regional languages, minority languages, and languages spoken by migrant populations. Several EU Member States have more than one official language.
In Luxembourg in 2015 all lower secondary school pupils learnt at least two foreign languages, German and French (which are also Luxembourg’s official languages). In Finland 99.4% of pupils study English, and 92.2% Swedish, which is an official language of the country. In Italy 95.8% of pupils study languages, mainly English and French. Estonia can also boast a high level of foreign languages education, with 95.4% of pupils studying two or more languages, 96.5% of them learning English, and 63.6% – Russian. Romania ranks 5 with 95.2%, then Greece and Poland with 94%.
Only in two EU countries fewer than 10% of lower secondary school pupils were studying two or more foreign languages – Hungary (6.0%) and Austria (8.8%).
English is the most popular foreign language in the majority of EU countries. In Denmark, Malta and Sweden all pupils have English classes. French is studied by about one third of the pupils, being popular in Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Italy and Romania. German is most popular in neighbouring countries, such as Luxembourg, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic or Slovenia. Learning Spanish, on the other hand, seems popular in Sweden and France, and Russian, which is the only commonly studied non-EU language, is learnt mostly by pupils in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Bulgaria.
It seems the trend is to study English and usually a neighbour’s language.
Note: No data are available for the UK.