The 2012 edition of the European Commission document Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe1 contains a statistical snapshot and an analysis of the situation of foreign languages teaching in the continent referred mainly to the academic year 2011-2012. The report provides a complete picture of the language teaching systems in place in 32 European countries. More precisely, the report combines statistical data with qualitative information to describe the context and organisation of foreign language teaching, student participation levels as well as the initial and continuing education of foreign language teachers. In addition to giving a snapshot of the situation today, the report also presents several time series which are particularly helpful in identifying trends in language teaching over recent years and past decades.

The document acknowledges that “in most countries, languages other than English, French, German, Spanish and Russian… In 2009/10, the percentage of students learning languages other than English, French, Spanish, German or Russian was below 5 % in most countries, and in a significant number the percentage was less than 1 %.”2 Almost everywhere in Europe, fewer than 5 % of teachers choose to participate in courses taught in Spanish, with the exception of staff from Norway (37.2 %), the United Kingdom (30.4 %), Ireland, France, Sweden, Iceland (all around 8 %) and the French Community of Belgium (5.1 %).3

Spanish is the fourth most widely taught foreign language in a significant number of countries, after English, German and French, especially at upper secondary level.4 Spanish is taught essentially in general education at ISCED levels 2 and 3. In most cases, the percentage of students learning this language is lower than 20 % (and often even lower than 10 %).5

Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 summary (525pdf)
Frequency of use of the foreign language in the classroom by teachers and students, 2010/11
Frequency of use of the foreign language in the classroom by teachers and students, 2010/11 Footnote 6

 

85 % of all Spanish students in Europe are located in France, the United Kingdom and Germany. Spanish enrolments are growing even in countries where enrolments in foreign languages are in decline. The number of students of Spanish in 2000-2001 (considering all levels of education, ie. primary, secondary, tertiary, adult education, private schools) was 3,942,206, distributed as follows:

Number of students of Spanish in all levels of education by country (2000-2001). Numbers of enrolments in Spain not included.
Number of students of Spanish in all levels of education by country (2000-2001). Numbers of enrolments in Spain not included. Footnote 7

 

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Footnotes
1. Eurydice/Eurostat. “Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012” on the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) website, July 2012
2. Eurydice/Eurostat. “Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 summary” on the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) website, July 2012
3. Ibid., p. 100
4. Ibid., p. 11
5. Ibid., p.74
6. Summary p. 6
7. Elaborated from José Luján Castro, “La enseñanza del español como lengua extranjera en Europa: datos generales y propuesta para su mejora,” on the Centro Vitrual Cervantes website, Anuario 2002 [Online] Cited 18/11/2014