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How multi-lingual are Europeans really?

The answer depends on whether you are a ‘glass half-full’ or ‘glass half-empty’ kind of person. An example of some further research is linked here, but as follows are the highlights:

  • 54% of Europeans can hold a conversion in at least one foreign language (glass half-full), but…
  • 46% of Europeans cannot (glass half-empty).

Something to be happy about though, is that:

  • 25% are conversant in at least two foreign languages, and…
  • 10% are conversant in at least three

For years it has been a goal of the EU to get Europeans to speak at least two languages other than their native one. The hope was that it would enable citizens to benefit from the opportunities in the single market. But when we look at the languages being learned, we see that English is in the lead with 94% of school programs.

This is far from what was hoped for, but it is better than no languages being learned.

On the lower end of the scale, the UK is at the bottom with 52% of young people not learning any language. Unfortunately my own native country, Ireland, is also in the bottom 4 countries with only 15% of young people learning a foreign language by the end of secondary school.

I believe this will change over time though. As more and more young people travel, they will see the benefits of being able to communicate across countries and cultures.

There are also new generations growing up with more than one language at home, i.e. with parents who speak native languages either different to each other, or different to the country the child is being raised in.

Although this will obviously change things in the future, it will take time. I’m optimistic that we’ll have a more multi-lingual Europe in the future.