During yesterday’s school board discussion regarding dual immersion, it was stated that Europe’s standard is that students learn two foreign languages. Is that true?
“The standard now for Europe is that kids know 3 languages, 2 plus their own.”
-Update on the status of dual immersion 10/7/2014 Park City School Board Meeting
Dual immersion seems to be a hot topic with many people concerned about it for different reasons. Some are worried because their kids can’t get in. Some are worried because class sizes may be bigger in non-dual immersion classes. Some are worried about whether the best teachers are teaching dual immersion. It’s most definitely a topic we’ll dig into more as we can.
Yet, we were struck by a comment during yesterday’s school board where it was said that the standard in Europe was for kids to learn 2 additional languages besides their own. This was said in the context that our kids must learn additional languages or they will be left behind. That may or may not be true but we are most interested in understanding whether that statement is generally accurate.
First, we must understand that most european countries teach English as the first secondary language. So, if you are from Lithuania, you learn English and Lithuanian. Second, while the statement does seem to reflect policy, the truth on the ground varies. See the document below (click for a better view):
So, yes in the czech Republic 100% do learn 3 languages, in the UK 5% learn 3 languages. In France 92% learn 3 languages. In Italy 24% learn 3 languages. So, it really varies.
This isn’t written to diminish the benefit of multiple languages. However to imply that most european students learn 3 languages at a usable level does not appear valid.