French, 2nd-most-studied foreign language in Europe
1. On the occasion of the 10th European Day of Languages, celebrated each year on September 26, Eurostat, the European statistics office, has released data on language-learning at the middle school level.
It reveals that French is currently studied by 34% of middle school students, up 4% from 2005. That puts it in second place, behind English (97.1%).
Coming in significantly ahead of German (22.1%) and Spanish (12.2%), French is the foreign language most frequently studied in Belgium, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Eurostat also notes that the countries in which French is most widely studied are Cyprus (91.7%), Romania (85.7%), Italy (69.9%), Ireland (63.5%), the Netherlands (57.7%), and Portugal (57.4%).
This boost in French-language studies in Europe can partly be explained by the fact that English proficiency is increasingly widespread, making a second foreign language necessary to distinguish oneself on the job market. We are obviously delighted that European middle- and high-schoolers are choosing French.
An eloquent example of the growth in French-language studies is the development of bilingual systems such as Abibac (the French-German baccalaureate) and Bachibac (the French-Spanish baccalaureate), leading to the award of two diplomas, a considerable advantage in times of economic difficulty.
2. The increased study of French is not limited to Europe. We are seeing a steady rise in the study of French worldwide. This can be explained by the prestige and image of refinement associated with our language, by the strength of our economy (despite criticism), but also by the success of French cultural diplomacy, which strives to promote knowledge and appreciation of the French language through projects, events, quality labels and partnerships.
Also noteworthy is the success of the network of French lycées abroad. There are 494 such establishments in 135 countries, with 325,000 students. Renowned for the excellent education they provide, (96% success rate for the 2014 baccalaureate), these institutions have registered real growth on every continent, reflecting a definite appreciation for our language by French nationals living abroad but also by parents of local students. Indeed, with 220 million speakers on five continents, French is a language of the future, as illustrated by the vitality of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.