A Closer Look

Learning a Foreign Language – 92% of European students, 20% of K-12 students in US

Students throughout the United States and Europe face many similar tasks throughout their education, from preparing for exams to writing papers. But there are glaring differences when it comes to foreign language education – or lack thereof – and the result is that far lower shares of American students study a foreign language.

Learning a foreign language is a nearly ubiquitous experience for students throughout Europe, driven in part by the fact that most European countries have national-level mandates for formally studying languages in school. No such national standard exists in the U.S., where requirements are mostly set at the school district or state level.

Across Europe, students typically begin studying their first foreign language as a required school subject between the ages of 6 and 9. Furthermore, studying a second foreign language for at least one year is compulsory in more than 20 European countries.

Overall, a median of 92% of European students are learning a language in school. Most primary and secondary school students across Europe study at least one foreign language as part of their education, according to Eurostat, the statistics arm of the European Commission. Of the 29 European nations for which data are available, 24 have a foreign language learning rate of at least 80%, with 15 of those reaching 90% or more of students enrolled in language courses. In three of the four countries with the smallest student populations – Luxembourg, Malta and Liechtenstein – 100% of students are reported to be learning a foreign language.

Meanwhile, far fewer K-12 students in the U.S. participate in foreign language education. Throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 20% of K-12 students are enrolled in foreign language classes, according to a 2017 report from the nonprofit American Councils for International Education.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Unlike in US, most European students learn a foreign language | Pew Research Center

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