Language skills are not only a valuable resource for employees. They can also be an important locational advantage for countries if, for example, a foreign group looks at the local supply of multilingual specialists when looking for a new company headquarters. On paper, Germany seems to be doing quite well there.
In 2016, the European statistical agency Eurostat examined how the Member States are doing on this issue. In Germany, around 79 percent of the population spoke at least one foreign language. The EU mean was only 65 percent. However, if you look at the quality of the knowledge, the picture is somewhat different.
So many Germans speak a foreign language
According to Eurostat, only just under 28 percent of Germans with knowledge of foreign languages could claim to be fluent in a foreign language. That was even two percentage points less than in 2013. In a European comparison, the result for Germany was below average. The language champions of the EU came up with values beyond the 50 percent mark. But how can such serious differences within Europe be explained? The digital learning platform Preply has examined which EU countries basically offer the best conditions for their citizens to learn foreign languages as early and easily as possible.
Preply examined the 27 member states based on seven criteria. The countries received zero to 100 points each. These categories contributed equally to the result:
- Number of official languages
- Multilingualism: Proportion of the population who have no command of a foreign language or at least one foreign language
- Foreign language teaching: The proportion of children who already learn a foreign language in elementary school
- Language level of the best mastered foreign language
- Language learning with the help of technology: uncomplicated access to fast internet, for example, which makes it easier to use digital offers
- Subtitling, dubbing and voiceover in film and television
- Linguistic diversity: A look at the general population diversity, the total number of languages spoken and the foreign language offerings on the online presences of the governments
According to Preply, the data for the analysis come from Eurostat, Statista or analysis services such as Speedtest.
According to the study, these EU countries offer the best conditions for learning foreign languages.
@IMAGO / agefotostock
# 10 Estonia
Most EU countries have only one official language. Estonia also got zero points in this category. But it was able to score points with the foreign language skills of its residents. According to Eurostat, 91 percent of Estonians speak at least one other language. Preply also awarded many points for foreign language teaching in Estonia. In the end, the country got 45.4 points and thus ranked tenth in the EU comparison.
@IMAGO / imagebroker
# 9 Belgium
In the Preply ranking, Belgium was only one of two countries that received full marks in the “Official Languages” category. Dutch, German and French are official languages in Belgium. For foreign language teaching, however, Belgium was penalized with the second worst mark in the EU. Good values for language diversity, foreign language skills and access to technology resulted in 45.9 points and ninth place.
@IMAGO / viennaslide
# 8 Slovenia
Slovenia took eighth place in the Preply ranking with 52.8 points. The fact that foreign series and films are shown on television with subtitles earned the country 100 points in this category. There were also good grades for foreign language skills and language lessons.
@IMAGO / Xinhua
# 7 Malta
Five of the EU member states have two official languages. Malta was one of these representatives in the corresponding category with 50 points. Consequently, foreign language skills and teaching were also given above-average grades. Malta almost got full marks here. In the end it was only 61.4 points and seventh place. This was mainly due to the poor score in the “Subtitles / Dubbing” category. The question here, however, is how much this factor should play a role at all. In view of the large number of English-language films and series, countries with this official language are at a disadvantage.
@IMAGO / VIADATA
# 6 Netherlands
In the Netherlands, on the other hand, films in the original language with subtitles are widespread. According to Preply, this promotes foreign language skills, which is why the Netherlands got full marks in this category. Our neighbor also achieved this with access to technology. In the end, 62.8 points meant sixth place in the language ranking.
@IMAGO / Rupert Oberhäuser
# 5 Cyprus
Cyprus was one of two countries that received one hundred points from Preply for foreign language teaching. However, according to the experts, there is a lack of access to technology and the linguistic diversity of the population. In the end, they awarded 63 points and fifth place.
# 4 Finland
“European champion in foreign language learning”, Preply praised Finland. Accordingly, more than every second Finn speaks at least three foreign languages. The Scandinavian country received the worst grade with 41 points for its linguistic diversity. 65 points meant fourth place.
@IMAGO / Dean Pictures
# 3 Denmark
According to Eurostat, 96 percent of Danes can speak at least one foreign language. Excellent ratings for the level of teaching, access to fast internet and synchronization helped Denmark to score 67.2 points and third place.
@IMAGO / Imaginechina-Tuchong
# 2 Sweden
In no other EU country do more people speak foreign languages than in Sweden. The 97 percent share earned the country almost full points in the Preply ranking in the corresponding category. The fact that it was “only” enough for second place in the EU with 75.5 points was due to two categories: linguistic diversity (32.2 points) and official languages (zero points).
@IMAGO / Imaginechina-Tuchong
# 1 Luxembourg
According to the ranking, Luxembourg is the country in the EU that clearly offers its residents the best conditions for language learning. It “scores with an education system that introduces all schoolchildren to a foreign language in primary school,” said Preply. In addition, “natural language diversity” contributes to the top position in Luxembourg. The Grand Duchy was the only country to receive one hundred points in three categories: official languages, foreign language teaching and language level of the best mastered foreign language. Germany landed in eleventh place in the ranking. “Foreign language films are shown in Germany almost without exception in a dubbed version,” criticized the authors. They praised: “In no other country are so many languages spoken as in Germany. In this country there are people with 95 different mother tongues. “