Fewer than half of all pupils in primary schools in Belgium studied a foreign language in 2014, according to a study published on Friday by Eurostat on the occasion of the European Day of Languages, celebrated on September 26 of each year. The study showed that 37% of Belgian pupils studied a foreign language, whereas in the European Union (EU) as a whole, 83.7% of all children at that level studied at least one foreign language in 2014.
Belgium had one of the lowest percentages of children learning a foreign language in the EU that year, with only Portugal (36.2%) registering a lower score. Slovenia (48.4%) completed the list of countries with under half of their primary school pupils studying a foreign language, according to Eurostat’s statistics. At the other end of the scale, 100% of primary-school children in Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta studied foreign languages. Other countries coming close to this percentage included Austria, Croatia and Italy (99.9%), Spain (99.5%), France (99%) and Poland (97.7%).
And in certain EU member states, students studied two foreign languages: Luxembourg topped that list at 83.5%, followed by Estonia (32.6%) and Greece (28.7%).
In 2014, more than 18 million primary school pupils throughout the EU studied at least one language while about one million (5%) studied at least two. English, studied by more than 17 million pupils, was by far the most widely taught foreign language, except in Belgium and Luxembourg, both multilingual countries.
The dominance of English continued in lower secondary education (ages 11 to 15, depending on each national education system) with 17 million students – over 97% – studying it as a foreign language. French was the second most popular language, studied by five million students (34%) followed by German (3 million or 23%), Spanish (2 million, 13%), Russian (0.5 million, 3%) and Italian (0.2 million, 1%)
The percentage of children studying English was lower than 90% only in Belgium (46.3%), Luxembourg (54%), Hungary (69.3%) and Bulgaria (87.2%).