Saturday, 8 February 2014

Summary and Reflection of Report "Europeans and their Languages" (2012)

Research has been conducted into the languages learned after mother tongue in European countries.  Europe as a continent is interesting because its contains many countries that happen to have more than one national language.  This in itself promotes language learning.  If many citizens speak at least two languages as least at conversation level, they are more likely to try learning another language for work or travel reasons.  I know that since I learnt Italian at high school and university level, I was then more comfortable to learn another language when the opportunity arises. Personally, I learn some French and German at primary school and high school before taking up Italian at senior high school and into university level.  I then because a languages teacher after completing a double degree in Arts with Education and a Diploma of Language.  This certified me to teach French to year 12 (senior) and Italian to year 10 (junior high school) from my minor and major respectively.
·       The most widely spoken mother tongue is German, then Italian, English, French, Spanish and Polish.
·       Most respondents in Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Malta, Slovenia, Lithuania and Sweden speak at least two languages.
·       The five most widely spoken foreign languages remain English, French, German, Spanish and Russian.
·       Just over 40% of Europeans are able to understand at least one foreign language well enough to follow the news on radio or television.
·       Most Europeans are able to read a newspaper or magazine article in a foreign language. However, Europeans are slightly less likely to understand any foreign language enough to communicate online (e.g. using email, Twitter, Facebook etc.)
·       Europeans regularly use foreign languages when watching films/television or listening to the radio, then using the internet and communicating with friends.
·       Most Europeans are not active learners of languages. Over 40% have not learnt a language recently and do not intend to start.
·       Most Europeans identify working in another country as an advantage of learning a new language, then using the language at work (including travelling abroad), the ability to studying abroad and possibility of using it on holidays abroad.
·       Most Europeans think that knowing other languages is very useful.  English is perceived as the most useful before German, French, Spanish and Chinese.
·       Most Europeans consider mastering other foreign languages as useful for the future of their children, first French and German then Spanish, and Chinese.
·       Most Europeans say free lessons would make them significantly more likely to learn a language, then if they were paid to learn, if they were able to learn it in a country in which it is spoken, and if it improved career prospects.
·       Most widely mentioned barrier to learning another language is lack of motivation, then lack of time to study properly and that it is too expensive and lastly not being good at languages discourages them.
·       Most widespread method used to learn a foreign language is attending lessons at school, then by talking informally to a native speaker, with a teacher outside school in group language lessons, and by going on frequent or long trips to the country in which the language is spoken. 
·       More than 40% of Europeans prefer subtitles to dubbing when watching foreign films or TV programmes.
·       Translation has an important role to play in a wide range of areas across society, from education and learning and in health and safety, getting news about events in the rest of the world, participating in or getting information, accessing public services or enjoying leisure activities such as TV, films and reading.

Fact: Europeans are feeling favourable towards multiligualism.
·       Europeans have a positive attitude towards multilingualism. Most know other languages is very useful and almost every European considers mastering languages useful for the future of their children.
Fact: Research does not prove that multilingualism is increasing.
·       Most Europeans consider English as one of the two most useful languages then German, French, Spanish and Chinese.
Fact: Passive skills increasing
·       More Europeans regularly use foreign languages on the internet and watching films/television or listening to the radio.

Fact: Advantages and Barriers of Language Learning
·       More Europeans identify language learning with working in another country. A little over 40% of respondents think that learning a new language would help them to get a better job in their own country and study in another country.  Just under 40% believe learning a new language would help with understanding people from other cultures.
Fact: Young people are the future
·       Cultural, societal, economic and technological change opportunities among young Europeans, to engage them in learning new languages and using them in a wider context.
·       The majority can use their languages in passive activities, and communicate online and read the press or watch TV. However, cost, time, quality of teaching, availability of learning resources and motivation remain significant barriers to learning foreign languages.
·       Young people aged 15-24 years are more likely to choose English, German, Spanish and Chinese to learn as a foreign language.
·       Although the language skills need to be improved, the Europeans’ favourable attitude will probably be reflected in the abilities of the young generations in years to come.

Personal Reflection
My students have mixed reactions to the challenge of learning a new language. I teach in a regional town 5 hours from our state capital.  The main employer is town is the steel works company.  So, many families have parents working 12 hour shifts in a roster of 4 days on and 4 days off. I feel some of the people in this demographic may have always lived locally and never expected to travel.  This seems to have affected the perspective of the students.  Some expect they will never travel further than Adelaide our capital city.
Personally, I use all forms of technology to engage my interesting a variety of texts and extend my understanding of new vocabulary and grammar.  If you read my blog post ( you will see I combine internet, film, books, people just to name of few.  I actively do this since I live in a regional town and do not have as many opportunities as I used to when I lived in a suburb of Adelaide.

In conclusion, this report finds that in general Europeans as a population are not becoming more proficient in more languages yet; most have enough proficiency to listen to target language radio of watch foreign language television and movies.  Many of these people preferring subtitles and not dubbing over the original language. Many young people continue learning another language (mainly English, German, Spanish and then Chinese) primarily to gain work in another country.

Implications for teachers

As a teacher, teaching outside of Europe, I suggest we use authentic target language sources to engage the interest of our students. Teachers should choose authentic digital texts with optional subtitles for  beginning language learners.  Beginners can use subtitles as needed without loosing the listening skills experience in the target language. Encourage your students to make connections with language learning and their world: it can open doors to working overseas, getting a better job in their own country and understand other cultures more deeply.
Eurobarometer, Special. "Europeans and their Languages." European Commission (2012).


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