Article Details

Article Details

Europeans and their languages

Author: European Commission
Publisher: European Commission
Date of Publication: 2012
Notes: Special Eurobarometer

Key messages:

  • In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each).
  • Just over half of Europeans are able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language, a quarter are able to speak at least two additional languages and one in ten are conversant in at least three.
  • Countries where respondents are least likely to be able to speak any foreign language are Hungary, Italy, the UK and Portugal (61% in each), and Ireland. 
  • The five most widely spoken foreign languages remain English (38%), French (12%), German (11%), Spanish (7%) and Russian (5%).
  • 88% of Europeans think that knowing languages other than their mother tongue is very useful. 
  • Two thirds of Europeans consider English as one of the two most useful languages for themselves followed by German, French, Spanish and Chinese.
  • 98% of Europeans consider mastering other foreign languages as useful for the future of their children.
  • 72% of Europeans agree that people in the EU should be able to speak more than one language in addition to their mother tongue.


University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages