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Most popular foreign languages among EU students

26.09.23 18:24

The majority of pupils in primary and secondary education in the EU study at least one foreign language: in 2021, this consisted of 86.3% of pupils in primary education, 98.5% of students in lower secondary and 91.0% in upper secondary education, Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Union said.

In 2021, 61.0% of students in upper secondary general education studied two or more foreign languages as compulsory subjects or as compulsory curriculum options, +2.6 percentage points (pp) more than in 2013 (58.4%). In upper secondary vocational education, this share was 34.9%, +0.8 pp than in 2013 (34.1%).

In Luxembourg and France, all students in upper secondary general education studied two or more foreign languages. Czechia, Romania and Slovakia also registered a large share of students studying two or more languages (all 99%). These EU countries were followed closely by Estonia (97%), Slovenia and Finland (both 96%).

When it comes to upper secondary vocational education, Romania was the only EU country where almost all students (97%) studied two or more foreign languages in 2021. Finland (82%) followed, with Poland (77%) and Luxembourg (75%) coming next.

English leads in both general and vocational upper secondary education

In 2021, English was the most studied foreign language at the upper secondary general and vocational education level in the EU, with 96.8% and 78.6% of students learning it, respectively.

In terms of general education, Spanish ranked second (26.8%), followed by French (22.3%), German (21.8%) and Italian (3.2%). In addition, Russian was the non-EU language most commonly learned in the EU (2.8%), especially in Estonia (66%) and Latvia (59%), followed by Lithuania (28%) and Bulgaria (25%).

In vocational education, the German language came in second (17.9%), followed by French (16.4%), Spanish (7.0%) and Russian (2.2%). In this case, Russian was mostly learned in Latvia (42%), Bulgaria (30%) and Cyprus (15%).


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