Only 14% of french students reach the level of independent user in english (EU survey)

European Survey on Language Competences and European benchmark (2011)

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The first European Survey on Language Competences was carried out in spring 2011 and showed that there is still scope for improving language knowledge in the EU.

Key findings

The survey reveals that Europeans still need to improve their knowledge of foreign languages and there is a wide range of ability across the participating countries.

  • Only 42% of tested pupils were found to be competent in the first foreign language tested and just 25% in the second.
  • A large number of pupils did not achieve the level of a basic user: 14% for the first foreign language and 20% for the second foreign language.
  • The proportion of pupils attaining the level of independent user in the first language varies from 82% in Malta and Sweden (English) to 14% in France (English) and 9% in England (French).
  • For the second foreign language, Belgium shows the best proficiency (in English for 80% of Flemish-speaking students and 58% of German-speaking students), followed by the Netherlands and Malta, with 48% and 35% of students being independent users of German and Italian, respectively.
  • The level of independent user is reached by only 4% in Sweden (Spanish) and 6% in Poland (German).

About the survey

The survey was carried out in spring 2011 in 14 European countries and 16 educational systems (Belgium provided data for the Flemish, French and German communities). It was completed under international education survey standards similar to PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS.

Almost 54,000 pupils aged 14-15 were tested in three main competences: reading, listening and writing. These skills were tested in two out of the five most widely taught official languages of the EU: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Each student was assessed in two out of the three skills in one test language and also completed a questionnaire. The language tests measured achievement of levels A1 to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) (Council of Europe, 2001).

Next steps

A second round of the European Survey on Language Competences will be carried out in 2016 to provide updated data on language competences. The new survey will involve more Member States and cover also speaking skills in a foreign language.


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