- English is the language which is most widely "spoken" in the EU. While it is the mother tongue for 16% of the European population, a further 31% of the EU citizens speak it well enough to hold a conversation.
- Apart from English, the rank order of languages more or less follows the rank order of inhabitants.
- German is the mother tongue for 24% of the EU's citizens and spoken well enough as a "second" language by 8% of EU citizens.
- French is spoken by 28% of the population, of which more than half are native speakers.
- Italian is the fourth most widely known language - it counts as many native speakers as French, while the proportion of non-native speakers is significantly smaller (2%).
- 15% of the EU population speaks Spanish (11% as mother tongue and 4% as a foreign language).
Half of Europe is already Multilingual
- 45% of European citizens can take part in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue
- There are large variations between the Member States...
- ...in Luxembourg, nearly everyone speaks another language well enough to hold a conversation
- ...this is also true for more than 8 in 10 people living in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
- People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal are least likely to speak another language, with less than a third of these population saying they can do this.
There was a research in which people were asked what language they find the most useful besides their mother tongue, most people answered English followed by French and German.
The most taught languages
- Generally, English is the first foreign language in education in all EU Member States (except anglophone ones), and French is almost always the second.
- English is learned by 26% of non-anglophone primary pupils; French by 4% of non-francophones
- As far as secondary education is concerned, the language most taught as a foreign language is English.
- Overall, 89% of pupils learn English.
- In Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands over 90% of all secondary pupils learn English.
- 32% of pupils learn French, 18% German and 8% Spanish.
As the following table shows, there are large variations in language skills between people with different educational experiences. The proportion who can take part in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue ranges from 77% of students to only 19% of people who left school by the age of 15 or younger.
Educated up to 20 +72%
Average for EU 1545%
Educated to age 16-1944%
Educated to age 15 or younger19%