Foreign language education and ability
- See main article: Language education
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with Europe and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject
. (November 2010)
Most schools around the world teach at least one foreign language and most colleges and high schools require foreign language before graduation. By 1998 nearly all pupils in Europe studied at least one foreign language as part of their compulsory education, the only exception being Ireland, where primary and secondary schoolchildren learn both Irish and English, but neither is considered a foreign language (although Irish pupils do study a third European language). On average in Europe, at the start of foreign language teaching, learners have lessons for three to four hours a week. Compulsory lessons in a foreign language normally start at the end of primary school or the start of secondary school. In Luxembourg, Norway and Malta, however, the first foreign language is studied at age six, and in at age 10. In Wales, all children are taught Welsh from the first year of primary school. The Welsh language is also compulsory up to the age of 16, although a formal GCSE qualification is optional.
In some countries, learners have lessons taken entirely in a foreign language: for example, more than half of European countries with a minority/regional language community use partial immersion to teach both the minority and the state language. This method is also highly used in Canada, wherein anglophone students spend all of most of their lessons learning the materials in French.
In 1995, the European Commission's White Paper on Education and Training emphasised the importance of schoolchildren learning at least two foreign languages before upper secondary education. The
Lisbon Summit of 2000 defined languages as one of the five key skills.
Despite the high rate of foreign language teaching in schools, the number of adults claiming to speak a foreign language is generally lower than might be expected. This is particularly true of native English speakers: in 2004 a British survey showed that only one in 10 European Commission survey found that 61% of respondents in the UK were unlikely to speak any language other than their mother tongue (page 5).
Since the 1990s, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages has tried to standardise the learning of languages across Europe.
An article from The Atlantic claims that only 1 percent of the adults within the American population consider themselves proficient in speaking a foreign language. This is in stark contrast to many other countries, where the percentage is much higher. Even though there are many benefits that come with learning a foreign language, schools across the United States continue to cut foreign language from their budgets.
Instruments for foreign language learning
In recent years, computer-assisted language learning has been integrated into foreign language education and computer programs with varying levels of interactional relationship between computer and the language learner have been developed. Language learning aids such as foreign language writing aid and foreign language reading aid, targeted at the specific language skills of foreign language learners, are also alternative instruments available for foreign language learners.