European Journal of Language Policy

Public opinion on useful languages in Europe

European Journal of Language Policy (2011), 3, (1), 1–14.

Abstract

This article analyses the results of five Eurobarometer surveys (of 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2005) designed to measure which languages Europeans consider most useful to know. Most Europeans are of the opinion that English is the most useful, followed by French and German. During the last decade the popularity of French and German as useful languages has been decreasing significantly, while English has remained universally favoured as the most useful language. French and German have lost their popularity especially among those who do not speak them as a foreign language. On the other hand, Spanish, Russian and other languages (often these include languages of neighbouring countries, minority languages or a second official language of the country in question) have kept and even increased their former level of popularity. Opinions about useful languages vary according to a respondent's knowledge of languages, education and profession. This article analyses these differences and discusses their impact on the study of foreign languages and the future of the practice of foreign languages in Europe.

Le présent article analyse les résultats de cinq enquêtes Eurobaromètre (1995, 1997, 1998, 2000 et 2005) destinées à mesurer quelles sont les langues que les Européens considèrent les plus utiles à connaître. La plupart des Européens pensent que l'anglais est le plus utile, suivi par le français et l'allemand. Au cours de la dernière décennie, la popularité du français et de l'allemand en tant que langues utiles a diminué de façon significative, tandis que l'anglais reste apprécié de tous comme la langue la plus utile. Le français et l'allemand ont perdu de leur popularité, en particulier parmi les personnes qui ne les parlent pas comme langue étrangère. D'autre part, l'espagnol, le russe et d'autres langues (il s'agit souvent des langues des pays voisins, des langues minoritaires ou de la deuxième langue officielle du pays en question) ont maintenu ou même surpassé leur ancien niveau de popularité. L'opinion sur l'utilité des langues varie en fonction de la connaissance des langues du répondant, de son niveau d'éducation et de sa profession. Notre article analyse ces différences, et examine leur impact sur l'étude des langues étrangères et sur l'avenir de la pratique des langues étrangères en Europe.

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Pietiläinen, Jukka