Europe by Numbers

An interesting guide to Europe featured in the Guardian, entitled “Europe by Numbers: the complete interactive guide” shows the variation in statistics throughout countries within Europe. Did you know, for example, that the populations of Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom account for over half of the 501 million strong population of the European Union member countries? Or that Austria has the highest number of practising physicians per 100,000 inhabitants, with 459, whilst the UK lags behind with 257.7?

Social Media is most popular in Poland, largely due to the popularity of the Nasza-klasa social network, which has 13 million users & far outranks Facebook in Poland.

The statistics relating to foreign languages are, shall we say, slightly embarrassing…

Whilst over 90% of secondary school students study a foreign language in 16 of the member states (Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Sweden, The Netherlands, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Slovakia, and Finland, in case you’re wondering), this figure drops to 58% in Ireland, and just 32% in the United Kingdom. As commented in the Guardian, English is the most popular foreign language in the rest of Europe, perhaps suggesting why the figure in the UK is so much lower.

However, is that really an excuse? Does the fact that we already know the most popular language in the EU make it acceptable that such a low percentage study another language in secondary school? Should we not take advantage of the fact that we fluently speak a language that so many EU citizens seek to learn and study another language? Who is responsible for such a low figure? Is it students who do not wish to learn another language? Is it the curriculum, the way the languages are taught, that make them less popular? Is it the country’s education system? Is it acceptable for us to rest on our laurels, and assume that other nationalities will speak English, so we don’t have to speak their language? Or is it just common sense – after all, why waste time learning another language when so many other people speak English? Let us know what you think on this subject – as a native of the UK, or as a citizen of another European Union country, we would love to hear from you!