The most recent data which the Commission has available, and which deals with all 25 Member States, comes from two Eurobarometer surveys carried out in 2001 and 2002 (Standard Eurobarometer N° 55 in the European Union(1) and the Candidate Countries Eurobarometer (2) in the then pre-accession countries ). In both these surveys, the question was asked: ‘which languages can you speak well enough to take part in a conversation, apart from your mother tongue?’
The following table shows the percentage of respondents who said they were able to take part in a conversation in at least one language other than their mother tongue.
|can take part in a conversation in a language other than mother tongue|
|Belgique / België||61|
|Kypros / Kibris||60|
|Suomi / Finland||58|
In reading these figures, it needs to be recalled that the ‘language of the Member State’ may not be the mother tongue of the respondent, because the respondent may speak a ‘regional’, ‘minority’ or immigrant language as mother tongue.
It should also be recalled that Eurobarometer is an opinion survey; different respondents may have estimated their linguistic abilities in different ways.
Heads of State and Government in Barcelona in March 2002 noted the lack of data on citizens’ actual language skills, and called for the establishment of a European Indicator of Language Competence. Such an indicator will provide valuable information for decision-takers in the education and training systems. The Commission will bring forward proposals for the design and administration of a periodic test of language skills, which will gather data for this new European Indicator.