Quelle horreur! Britain Right at the Bottom of European Table for Learning Foreign Languages

Schoolchildren in Britain are less likely to learn multiple foreign languages than those in any other EU member state, an international study has revealed. Youngsters from countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia are all more likely to learn additional languages than their peers in the UK. In only ten years the country has plummeted from the middle of the table that lists the number of languages learned in each country – to joint bottom.

The news comes only days after it was revealed that the study of languages at GCSE level in the UK has reached an all-time low.The number of pupils taking an exam in a foreign language has dropped by 12 per cent in a year, and by 45 per cent in the past decade. Damian Hinds, Conservative MP for Hampshire, who sits on the Commons education selection committee, blamed Labour for the ‘failure’.

He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The Coalition is working to reverse this damaging legacy of Labour’s mismanagement of the education system.’

The Labour government decided in 2004 to make languages optional at GCSE level in England.

European Commission figures show that in Luxembourg, which is top of the table, secondary school pupils learn an average of two or three languages. In Finland and Iceland, pupils learn on average more than two languages. Pupils in the Netherlands, Cyprus and Romania are also high flyers.

Across Europe the average pupil in the 27 member countries learns 1.4 languages. In Britain, children study just one. The UK is also outranked by France, Germany, Italy and Spain as well as Belgium, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Croatia.

In 2002, the UK was roughly in line with the continent, with teenagers learning 1.3 languages on average. But when the study was carried out again using data from 27 nations, the UK slumped to joint bottom with Hungary and Ireland.

Average number of foreign languages learned per pupil

Luxembourg 2.5
Finland 2.2
Iceland 2.1
Netherlands 2.0
Italy 2.0
Cyprus 2.0
Romania 2.0
Denmark 1.9
Lithuania 1.8
Sweden 1.7
Latvia 1.7
Norway 1.7
Former Yugoslav Republic 1.7
Croatia 1.5
France 1.5
European Union (27 countries) 1.4
Spain 1.4
Slovenia 1.4
Belgium 1.2
Bulgaria 1.2
Germany 1.2
Slovakia 1.2
Czech Republic 1.2
Ireland 1.2
Austria 1.1
Poland 1.1
Hungary 1.0
UK 1

There were no applicable or available figures for Malta, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Flemish community (Belgium), French community (Belgium), Turkey and Albania

Taken from The Daily Mail: 31.08.11