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Foreign Language Learning Soars Among EU Students

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The majority of primary and secondary education students in the European Union are learning at least one foreign language. According to Eurostat, marking the European Day of Languages, 86.3% of primary, 98.5% of lower secondary, and 91.0% of upper secondary students were engaged in foreign language studies in 2021.

In the same year, 61% of students in upper secondary general education (ISCED level 34) studied two or more foreign languages, marking a 2.6 percentage point increase from 2013. In upper secondary vocational education (ISCED level 35), the proportion was 34.9%, a 0.8 percentage point increase from 2013.

Luxembourg and France saw all their upper secondary general education students studying two or more foreign languages. The Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia also recorded a high proportion of students (99%) studying multiple languages, closely followed by Estonia (97%), and Slovenia and Finland (both 96%).

Regarding upper secondary vocational education, Romania led the way with nearly all students (97%) learning two or more foreign languages in 2021, followed by Finland (82%), Poland (77%), and Luxembourg (75%).

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English dominated as the most studied foreign language in both general and vocational upper secondary education in 2021, with 96.8% and 78.6% of students learning it, respectively. For general education, Spanish was the second most studied (26.8%), followed by French (22.3%), German (21.8%), and Italian (3.2%). Russian was the most commonly studied non-EU language (2.8%), particularly in Estonia (66%) and Latvia (59%), followed by Lithuania (28%) and Bulgaria (25%).

In vocational education, German was the second most studied language (17.9%), followed by French (16.4%), Spanish (7.0%), and Russian (2.2%).

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