What languages are studied the most in the EU?

Knowledge of foreign languages is an essential tool for cultural exchange. It is widely known that such skills are required and encouraged in many workplaces and that they can facilitate communication in several other contexts.

In 2019, 59 % of pupils in upper secondary general education (ISCED level 34) studied two or more foreign languages in the EU. Across the EU countries, all students in upper secondary general education studied two or more foreign languages in Luxembourg and France. Estonia, Romania, Czechia and Finland also had a large proportion of students studying two or more languages (all 99 %), followed closely by Slovakia (98 %), Croatia (95 %) and Slovenia (92 %).

In contrast, in Greece, only 1 % of students in upper secondary general education studied two or more foreign languages in 2019. Low shares of language learners were also registered in: Portugal (6 %), Ireland (12 %), Italy (25 %) and Spain (27 %).

In 2019, English was the most commonly studied foreign language at upper secondary general education level in the EU, with 96 % of students learning it. Spanish ranked second (26 %), followed by French (22 %), German (20 %) and Italian (3 %). In addition, Russian was the non-EU language most commonly learned in the EU (3 %), especially in Estonia (68 %) and Latvia (57 %), followed by Lithuania (30 %) and Bulgaria (24 %).

For more information:

  • Only foreign languages studied as compulsory subjects or as compulsory curriculum options are included; the study of languages when the subject is offered in addition to the minimum curriculum are excluded.
  • Belgium: official state languages are Dutch, French and German. Luxembourg: official state languages are French, German and Luxembourgish, but for the purpose of education statistics, French and German are counted as foreign languages. Finland: depending on their mother tongue, students have to choose between Finnish and Swedish, both considered as foreign languages for the purpose of education statistics.
  • Statistics Explained article on Foreign language learning statistics
  • Eurostat database on education and training
  • Eurostat dedicated section on education and training
  • Relevant updated information on the joint UIS (UNESCO Institute of Statistics)/OECD/Eurostat (UOE) data collection and Quality reports compiled at country level can be found in the Education administrative metadata file.

www.ec.europa.eu/eurostat/