Thursday, 26 October 2017

Languages in the Nordic Region

Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, English  translators
Collage: Baltic Media

Much of the Nordic Region is bound together by languages so closely related that, with a little effort, most people understand each other.
Other languages spoken in the Region are less closely related, and English is gaining ground in both professional and cultural contexts, which represents a challenge to our understanding of the neighbouring languages.
The linguistic community of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish speakers is also under threat in other ways. Our expectations of and attitudes towards the extent of our mutual understanding affect how we interact with people from neighbouring Nordic countries.
These expectations and attitudes are based on, among other things, how often we encounter the neighbouring languages in our day-to-day lives. For example, in 2016, the Norwegian online drama SKAM(Sham) generated considerable interest in the Nordic language community among young and not-so-young people across the Region.  
Certain words and phrases from SKAM achieved an almost cult status among fans. Time will tell whether any of these loan words from SKAM will endure as slang, or even everyday terms, in other Nordic languages.
Upper-secondary teachers across the Region have used the series to focus on and work with the neighbouring languages and to explore shared Nordic cultural and social references. It will be interesting to see what impact a youth-culture phenomenon like SKAM will have on the teaching of neighbouring languages in the long term.  
SKAM made a difference to many fans’ expectations about whether they would be able to understand Norwegian. This is just as important as formal teaching in the neighbouring languages, which might otherwise have had a somewhat limited effect in the long run. Instead, the idea that learning Norwegian is easy – or even fun – will have a lasting effect on the SKAM generation.
Languages in the Nordic Region
Historically, many of the people of the Nordic countries were able to understand each other. This linguistic community transcended borders and helped to bind the Region together culturally.
The sense of community in the Region is the result of linguistic and historical conditions.
For centuries, the Nordic states and autonomous territories have been part of various unions and other formal communities, as a result of which Denmark, Norway, and Iceland have close cultural links – as do Finland and Sweden. These relationships became interwoven – and further strengthened – by the Norwegian-Swedish union and the by Greenland and the Faroe Islands being an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark and Åland being an autonomous part of the Republic of Finland. Norway gained its independence in 1905, Finland in 1917 and Iceland in 1944. Previously, these countries’ administrative, educational and church language was either Danish or Swedish. They had also shared a literary history and a linguistic and cultural community, and this continued – at least to the extent that the Nordic nations and people saw fit to maintain it.
Most of the Nordic languages are part of the Indo-European family. Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish are all North Germanic languages that stem from the same common tongue spoken by the Vikings. Since then, the languages have grown apart from each other and separated into western and eastern branches, with Danish and Swedish on the one hand, and Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic on the other. Faroese and Icelandic constitute the Island-language group. They are not mutually intelligible with what are known as the mainland Nordic languages, i.e. the Scandinavian languages Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. This is due to, among other things, divergent developments in pronunciation. In other words, they have different sound systems.
Pronunciation differences are the biggest cause of problems when it comes to understanding neighboring languages. Nowadays, perhaps surprisingly, there is a greater degree of understanding between Norwegian and Swedish than between Danish and Swedish.
The Finnish and Sámi languages belong to the Finno-Ugric language family. Sámi is spoken in the north of the Nordic Region, in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Small minorities also speak Karelian in Finland; Kven in Norway, and Meänkieli in Sweden, languages not readily understood by speakers of the main Nordic languages.
Greenlandic (or Kalaallisut) belongs to the Inuit branch of the Eskimo-Aleut languages, i.e. a third language family, and is spoken in Greenland. It is related to a number of languages spoken in northern Canada and Alaska.
As well as the spoken languages, the Nordic countries also have their own national variants of sign language, which are again divided into eastern and western branches. Finnish, Finland-Swedish and Swedish sign language are closely related, as are Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic. Greenlandic and Faroese sign language is based on Danish, with some national variations. 

The status of the languages in and outside the Nordic Region
Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish (including Finland-Swedish) are all official national languages. Along with Faroese, Greenlandic and Sámi, they are the languages that our societies and culture are based on. Nordic Sign Language also occupies a special position in the Nordic societies. The Declaration on Nordic Language Policy explains the status of the languages and of key areas of Nordic language policy. Responsibility for following up on the Declaration lies at the national level, but Nordic co-operation is designed to support those national efforts.
Danish, Finnish and Swedish are also official languages of the European Union.
Danish is an official minority language in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. In the South Schleswig area, Danish has been one of the several official languages since 2015.
Finnish is recognised as a minority language spoken in the Republic of Karelia, in north-west Russia.

Language use in Nordic co-operation
Nordic co-operation involves a certain degree of parallel language use between the three Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish) on one side, and English on the other.
Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are the working languages of official Nordic co-operation. For meetings of the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers, an interpretation service is offered between Finnish, Icelandic, and Scandinavian, but never between the Scandinavian languages. The secretariats for the Nordic Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers and Culture Fund use Danish, Norwegian and Swedish as their working languages.
Since 1991, the Nordic Council of Ministers has developed close co-operation with the three Baltic republics – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. English is the working language of Nordic-Baltic co-operation.
In some academic and professional contexts, English is used as the language of co-operation.
In some respects, it might be easier and more convenient for all co-operation to be through the medium of English. However, the fact that political co-operation is rooted in the mutual understanding of the neighbouring Nordic languages (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish) sends a positive signal of cohesion across linguistic and national boundaries.
The Nordic countries have concluded several agreements on language co-operation.
For example, the Council of Ministers has a special focus on listening comprehension between Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. You can read more about the neighbouring language understanding in research reports like Håller språket i hop Norden? (Does language hold the Nordic Region together? 2005), Dansk og svensk – Fra nabosprog til fremmedsprog? (Danish and Swedish – from neighbouring languages to foreign languages, 2013) and Man skal bare kaste sig ud i det (Just take the plunge! 2016).

Source: Norden 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Catalan: a Language That Has Survived Against the Odds

Catalan (català)

Catalan is a Romance language spoken by about 9.5 million people. It is the official language of Andorra and an official language, along with Spanish, in Catalonia (Catalunya), Valencia (Comunitat Valenciana) and the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears). It is also spoken in parts of Aragon and Murcia, Pyrénées-Orientales in southern France, and in the Sardinian city of Alghero (l'Alguer)
The language of Valencia is known as Valencian, which some belief is a separate language, however most linguists view it as a variety of Catalan. The Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua (AVL) consider Catalan and Valencian to be two names for the same language.
 Catalan appeared as a distinct language during the 10th and 11th centuries. During the 12th century, Catalan began to appear in writing in scientific, philosophical, financial, religious, legal, literary and historical documents. At that time, Latin and Provençal were the preferred languages for literary and philosophical texts.
After the War of the Spanish Succession (1705-1715), Philip V abolished all the government institutions then existing in Catalonia and implemented Spanish laws. Catalan went through various periods of prohibition and repression.
In the 19th century, a period of economic, cultural and national recovery began, known as the Renaixença (Renaissance). Catalan was reborn as the language of literary culture through the Jocs Florals (Floral Games - a poetry contest) and through distinguished figures such as Jacint Verdaguer, Narcís Oller and Àngel Guimerà.
The Renaixença raised awareness of the lack of unity in the use of the language (there was no model for a common written language) and of the need to draw up rules on spelling. The founding of the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (Institute of Catalan Studies) in 1907 led to the language being codified through the publication of Normes ortogràfiques (Spelling Rules) in 1913, the Diccionari ortogràfic (Spelling Dictionary) in 1917, and the Gramàtica catalana (Catalan Grammar) by Pompeu Fabra in 1918.
During the first 30 years of the 20th century, Catalonia went through a period of political fervour, culminating in the recovery of a degree of political power in the Generalitat (the Government of Catalonia) during the 1930s. During the Second Republic (1931-1939), Catalan was restored to its official language status, which it had lost in the 18th century. However, this promising future was checked by the Civil War and its consequences. The use of Catalan in public was forbidden and the language retreated into the home.
Ever since the restoration of democratic institutions, there has been a process to re-establish the use of Catalan. It is now a co-official language, along with Spanish, in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, and is widely used an everyday language throughout Catalonia, Valencia, Andorrra and the Balearic Islands. Catalan is used as a medium of instruction in many schools. It is also used extensively in the media and in government.
Catalan at a glance
·         Native name: català [kətəˈɫa/kataˈɫa]
·         Linguistic affiliation: Indo-European, Italic, Romance, Western, Gallo-Romance, Occitano-Romance
·         Number of speakers: c. 9.5 million
·         Spoken in Andorra, southern France, northeast Spain, the Balearic Islands, Alghero in Sardinia, Italy
·         First written: 11th century
·         Writing system: Latin script
·         Status: official language in Andorra and in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands in Spain. Recognised minority language in Pyrénées-Orientales in France, in Aragon in Spanish, and in Alghero in Sardinia in Italy.

Barcelona. Photo : 
Proud of its own identity and language, Catalonia is one of Spain's richest and most highly industrialized regions, and also one of the most independent-minded.
With a distinguished history stretching back to the early middle ages, many Catalans think of themselves as a separate nation from the rest of Spain.
This feeling is fed by memories of the Franco dictatorship, which attempted to suppress Catalan identity, and is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the fierce rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, Spain's top football clubs.
A roughly triangular region in Spain's far north-east corner, Catalonia is separated by the Pyrenean mountains from southern France, with which it has close historical ties.
Most of the region's population lives in Barcelona, its vibrant political and economic hub and a popular European travel destination.
Holiday-makers also flock to the Mediterranean beaches of the Costa Brava and Costa Daurada/Dorada, and the Pyrenees are popular with hikers, making tourism an important part of Catalonia's economy.
But it is manufacturing - traditionally textiles, but more recently overtaken in importance by the chemical industry, food-processing, metalworking - that make the region Spain's economic powerhouse, along with a growing service sector.
Barcelona, Catalonia. Photo: 


The area first emerged as a distinct entity with the rise of the County of Barcelona to pre-eminence in the 11th century. In the 12th century, the county was brought under the same royal rule as the neighboring kingdom of Aragon, going on to become a major medieval sea power.
Catalonia has been part of Spain since its genesis in the 15th century when King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile married and united their realms.
Initially retaining its own institutions, the region was ever more tightly integrated into the Spanish state, until the 19th century ushered in a renewed sense of Catalan identity, which flowed into a campaign for political autonomy and even separatism. The period also saw an effort to revive Catalan, long in decline by then, as a language of literature.

  • Politics: Catalonia's leadership is keen to split from Spain, and held an independence referendum in 2017
  • Culture: Catalonia's laws require teachers, doctors, and public sector workers to use Catalan, an official language along with Spanish
  • Economy: Catalonia is one of Spain's wealthiest but most indebted regions. Harsh austerity measures have boosted separatist sentiment

Source:  Omniglot BBC

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Translation - an Investment Linked to Growth

Translation in to and from  Swedish
Credit: GraphicStock
Willy Brandt: If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen. 

More languages lead to more business
Research has shown that both small and medium-sized Swedish companies use fewer languages in their customer communication that the corresponding companies in other European countries. German and Danish companies use an average of 12 languages and French companies use eight, while Swedish companies rely on just three. The difference is also reflected in the number of export countries per company, with Germany having 11 countries per company and France having eight, whereas Sweden only has four. 
Due to a lack of multilingualism, 20% of small and medium-sized Swedish companies lose out on export business. The corresponding figure for Germany is 8%, and for Denmark just 4%. It is clear that language limits Swedish exports unnecessarily, making it vulnerable when – using language as a tool – we could reach new growth markets while also gaining a better geographical spread and export growth.
“But Sweden is already an export nation,” you may well argue, and this is certainly true, but around 100 companies currently account for two thirds of our exports, with a group of just ten companies accounting for a full 40%. This leaves us vulnerable to the successes and failures, acquisitions and production decisions of a few companies. 
Not only do languages offer significant growth potential for small and medium-sized companies, increased exports from more companies also makes Sweden as a nation less vulnerable in terms of the balance of trade and employment.
The ability to understand is crucial
As consumers, 30% of us are not at all keen on online shopping if we do not understand the information fully (and the same is true generally – there are also geographical differences). Asians are least inclined to buy in such situations, and Russians are also very wary. Swedes are among the group who are most comfortable, but this is mostly an advantage for foreign companies who want to attract Swedish customers.
As consumers we are better at English and are more worldly wise when it comes to information and user interfaces, but despite all this we are at heart most comfortable with our own native language. Studies show clearly that when faced with a choice between an English version and a localised version of software we are 4.5 times more likely to choose the localised version. 67% would even do so if the localised product were more expensive! If the English-language product also lacked product information in the local language it is fairly certain that the customer wouldn’t even look at it, let alone buy it.
Unused potential
Language economics is a modern, interdisciplinary field dealing with the economic significance of languages, language use and language skills. There is concrete added economic value to be gained both by individuals and companies and by nations. Research within language economics has estimated that language barriers reduce bilateral trade by up to 75-170%, and according to the Swedish Federation of Business Owners language skills can make a difference of between 7% and 43% in international business.
Expanding geographic reach is one of the best and most natural routes in order to achieve growth. We have to stop looking at translation and localisation as simply an expense and start looking at them as an investment instead – an investment that is intimately linked to growth.

Talking so that customers understand
Willy Brandt, former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, is said to have declared in the 1970s that “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”And this still rings true today. As customers, we are four times more likely to buy from a website that ‘speaks’ our own language.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Successful Content Translation and Localisation

Translation of content
Credit: GraphicStock 

Here are a few steps you should bear in mind when setting the stage for scalable and sustainable translation management. Leading it within a localization or, ideally, globalization framework takes it to the highest level of performance and satisfaction.

Step 1: Understand Requirements to Engage With Local Customers
Prior to starting any translation effort, you should clearly understand what local customers want from content and walk in their shoes. Identifying where translation comes to play in the customer journeys sets expectations properly and is crucial to determine the impact of content translation on local experiences in a tangible manner. More often than not, you will end up going beyond content translation and addressing actual localization to accommodate all linguistic, cultural, and functional needs in a granular and holistic fashion. Understanding all customer facets is a must to bring translation to a good end. The content translation must be an experience-driving process.

Step 2: Plan and Budget
As content translation has to be completed quickly and accelerated whenever safely possible, it also has to be planned and incorporated without compromising quality in content or product road maps. It should be considered an investment in content operations and experience delivery rather than just a cost. Translation budgets should be all-inclusive to avoid unexpected issues and iterations at later stages. In the digital world, translating content requires formatting and testing it for all the ecosystems to which it is delivered. As with many things, the lowest cost, in theory, may become a higher cost in practice. And not translating content may have a hidden cost too. The content translation must be a time-saving and cost-effective process.

Step 3: Select Professional Resources to Maintain Quality
Whether you intend to work with internal or external resources, you must ensure you choose people who are seasoned experts in translation practices and standards. You should bring aboard linguists, language analysts, terminologists, graphical specialists, or information engineers according to the scope and category of content. Do not assume that any multilingual person is a professional linguist just because all professional translators are multilingual people. Their ability is tied to their real expertise and experience of professional translation more than to their academic background. Also, make sure your translation resources have a seat at the content and product management table, together with stakeholders, so that they can stand out and develop their role. The content translation must be an inclusive process.

Step 4: Streamline Workflows to Optimize Roles and Responsibilities
The content translation should not be based on dozens of workflows. It is much better to define a few workflows that cover major types of content and involve the same type of resources. For example, translating video content does not follow the same path as translating product documentation. Allocating roles, responsibilities, and permissions matters a lot in order to keep translation flowing between all parties. Critical steps such as quality control, stakeholder review, or content sign off should not be split between too many people who may have different views and conflicting opinions.

Step 5: Leverage Technology and Assets to Boost Performance
Technology and assets should be used for the benefits they bring to translation management (i.e., increased productivity, quality, and speed in the short and long run). The key to ROI here is assembling the winning combination between technology and human intelligence. Typical robust tools include management platforms connecting all involved parties to submit, manage, track, and deliver content within a unified environment. It is also worth considering and using computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools that enable translation resources to work more quickly and consistently across projects. Machine translation deserves more attention than ever before in light of recent progress in the field, and it can make a real difference in handling large amounts of repetitive and highly structured content. Along the same lines, creating and updating assets (such as glossaries or translation memories) drive costs down while moving consistency and accuracy up. The content translation must be a technology-enabled process.

Step 6: Capture Value and Measure Performance to Drive Growth
Normal key performance indicators allow you to measure major effectiveness milestones and factors such as timely delivery, cost containment or reduction, individual productivity, or amounts of translated content per project. You should add some content-related metrics to dive deeper into translation management efficiency and highlight its value to the business globally and customer experiences locally—for instance, the actual cost per word (word is a currency in translation management and analysis), the percentage of reused or repurposed translated content, the number of content changes needed after stakeholder review(s), the level of memorability, and relevance for local customers. The content translation must be a profit-driving process.  


Monday, 21 August 2017

Lewis' Insights on Negotiating With People Around the World

Young businessman. Photo: Graphicstock
A world traveler who speaks ten languages, British linguist Richard Lewis decided he was qualified to plot the world's cultures on a chart.
He did so while acknowledging the dangers of stereotypes.
"Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception," Lewis wrote. "There is, however, such a thing as a national norm."
Many people think he nailed it, as his book " When Cultures Collide ," now in its third edition, has sold more than one million copies since it was first published in 1996 and was called "an authoritative roadmap to navigating the world's economy," by the Wall Street Journal.
Lewis plots countries in relation to three categories:
Linear-actives — those who plan, schedule, organize, pursue action chains, do one thing at a time. Germans and Swiss are in this group.
Multi-actives — those lively, loquacious peoples who do many things at once, planning their priorities not according to a time schedule, but according to the relative thrill or importance that each appointment brings with it. Italians, Latin Americans and Arabs are members of this group.
Reactives — those cultures that prioritize courtesy and respect, listening quietly and calmly to their interlocutors and reacting carefully to the other side's proposals. Chinese, Japanese and Finns are in this group.
He says that this categorization of national norms does not change significantly over time:
The behavior of people of different cultures is not something willy-nilly. There exist clear trends, sequences and traditions. Reactions of Americans, Europeans, and Asians alike can be forecasted, usually justified and in the majority of cases managed. Even in countries where political and economic change is currently rapid or sweeping (Russia, China, Hungary, Poland, Korea, Malaysia, etc.) deeply rooted attitudes and beliefs will resist a sudden transformation of values when pressured by reformists, governments or multinational conglomerates. 
Here's the chart that explains the world: 

 Lewis' insights on negotiating with people around the world.
  • Americans lay their cards on the table and resolve disagreements quickly with one or both sides making concessions.
  • Canadians are inclined to seek harmony but are similar to Americans in their directness.
  • People in the UK tend to avoid confrontation in an understated, mannered, and humorous style that can be either powerful or inefficient.
  • Germans rely on logic but "tend to amass more evidence and labor their points more than either the British or the French."
  • When meeting with the French, be prepared for a vigorous, logical debate.
  • Italians "regard their languages as instruments of eloquence" and take a verbose, flexible approach to negotiations.
  • Like Italians, Spaniards will "pull out every stop if need be to achieve greater expressiveness."
  • Among the Nordic countries, Swedes often have the most wide-ranging discussions.
  • Finns tend to value concision.
  • Most Norwegians fall somewhere in between Swedes and Finns.
  • Danes are sly negotiators - skilled at discretely getting their way.
  • The Swiss tend to be straightforward, nonaggressive negotiators. They obtain concessions by expressing confidence in the quality and value of their goods and services.
  • Hungarians value eloquence over logic and are unafraid to talk over each other.
  • The Dutch are focused on facts and figures but "are also great talkers and rarely make final decisions without a long 'Dutch' debate, sometimes approaching the danger zone of over-analysis."
  • The Chinese tend to be more direct than the Japanese and some other East Asians. However, meetings are principally for information gathering, with the real decisions made elsewhere.
Sources: Nordic Business Insider 2016-09  Business Insider Nordic 2013-09 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

39 Facts About Multilingualism in the European Union

Source: GraphicStock
Within the European Union there are many languages spoken. 

There are 23 officially recognised languages , more than 60 indigenous regional and minority languages, and many non-indigenous languages spoken by migrant communities. 

The EU, although it has limited influence because educational and language policies are the responsibility of individual Member States, is committed to safeguarding this linguistic diversity and promoting knowledge of languages, for reasons of cultural identity and social integration and cohesion, and because multilingual citizens are better placed to take advantage of the economic, educational and professional opportunities created by an integrated Europe.

A mobile workforce is key to the competitiveness of the EU economy.

§ In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each).

§ For the majority of Europeans their mother tongue is one of the official languages of the country in which they reside.

§ Just over half of Europeans (54%) are able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language, a quarter (25%) are able to speak at least two additional languages and one in ten (10%) are conversant in at least three.

§ Almost all respondents in Luxembourg (98%), Latvia (95%), the Netherlands (94%), Malta (93%), Slovenia and Lithuania (92% each), and Sweden (91%) say that they are able to speak at least one language in addition to their mother tongue.

§ Countries showing the most notable increases in the proportion of respondents saying that they are able to speak at least one foreign language well enough to hold a conversation, compared to data from the previous edition of the Eurobarometer survey, are Austria (+16 percentage points to 78%), Finland (+6 points to 75%), and Ireland (+6 points to 40%).

§ In contrast the proportion able to speak at least one foreign language has decreased notably in Slovakia (-17 percentage points to 80%), the Czech Republic (-12 points to 49%), Bulgaria (-11 points to 48%), Poland (-7 points to 50%), and Hungary (-7 points to 35%). In these countries there has been a downward shift since 2005 in the proportions able to speak foreign languages such as Russian and German.
Source: GraphicStock

§ Few countries show a noticeable increase in the proportion of respondents able to speak at least two foreign languages, with the most marked being in Italy (+6 percentage points to 22%) and Ireland (+5 points to 18%). However nine Member States show a significant drop of more than 5 percentage points: Belgium (-16 percentage points to 50%), Hungary (-14 points to 13%), Bulgaria (-12 points to 19%), Poland (-10 points to 22%), Portugal (-10 points to 13%), Malta (-9 points to 59%), Luxembourg (-8 points to 84%), Denmark (-8 points to 58%), and Estonia (-6 points to 52%).

§ Countries where respondents are least likely to be able to speak any foreign language are Hungary (65%), Italy (62%), the UK and Portugal (61% in each), and Ireland (60%).

§ The five most widely spoken foreign languages remain English (38%), French (12%), German (11%), Spanish (7%) and Russian (5%).

§ At a national level English is the most widely spoken foreign language in 19 of the 25 Member States where it is not an official language (i.e. excluding the UK and Ireland).

§ The majority of Europeans who speak English, German, Spanish and Russian as a foreign language believe that they have better than basic skills. Ratings of skill level are broadly similar to those seen in the 2005 survey.

§ Just over two fifths (44%) of Europeans say that they are able to understand at least one foreign language well enough to be able to follow the news on radio or television. English is the most widely understood, with a quarter (25%) of Europeans able to follow radio or television news in the language. French and German are mentioned by 7% of respondents each, while Spanish (5%), Russian (3%) and Italian (2%).
Source: GraphicStock

§ Europeans are just as likely to be able to read a newspaper or magazine article in a foreign language with just over two-fifths (44%) of Europeans saying they can. Again English is the most widespread foreign language, with a similar proportion of Europeans (25%) able to read a newspaper or magazine article in the language. French is mentioned by 7% and German by 6% of Europeans. Spanish comes next, with 4% of answers, followed by Russian and Italian (2%).

§ Europeans are slightly less likely to say that they understand any foreign language well enough to be able to use it to communicate online (e.g. using email, Twitter, Facebook etc.), with two fifths (39%) saying that they can use at least one foreign language in this way. Again, the most widely cited language is English, with a similar proportion of Europeans (26%) able to communicate online in the language. French and German are mentioned by 5% of Europeans each, followed by Spanish (3%) and Russian and Italian (1%).

§ There is a clear relationship between the order in which a language is mentioned (i.e. perceived fluency) and the frequency with which that language is used. A quarter (24%) of respondents use their first foreign language every day or almost every day, a similar proportion (23%) use it often and the remainder (50%) use it on an occasional basis. Around one in ten respondents use their second language every day or nearly every day (8%), with respondents much more likely to use it on an occasional basis only (65%). Similarly, only 6% of respondents who speak a third foreign language use it on an ‘everyday’ basis, around one in eight (13%) use it often but not daily, and around seven in ten (69%) use it occasionally.

§ Europeans say they regularly use foreign languages when watching films/television or listening to the radio (37%), using the internet (36%) and communicating with friends (35%). 27% of respondents report using foreign languages regularly for conversations at work and 50% during holidays abroad.

§ The most notable changes since 2005 are an increase in the proportion of Europeans who regularly use foreign languages on the internet (+10 percentage points) and when watching films/television or listening to the radio (+8 points). The proportion of  Europeans who do not use a foreign language regularly in any situation has fallen from 13% in 2005 to 9% in 2012.
Source: GraphicStock

§ The majority of Europeans do not describe themselves as active learners of languages. Around a quarter (23%) of Europeans have never learnt a language, while just over two-fifths (44%) have not learnt a language recently and do not intend to start.

§ Only a minority (14%) have continued learning a language in the last two years; less than one in ten (7%) have started learning a new language in the last two years; and a similar proportion (8%) have not learnt a language recently, but intend to start in the coming year.

§ Europeans are most likely to identify working in another country as a key advantage of learning a new language, with three-fifths of Europeans (61%) holding this view. Just over half of Europeans (53%) perceive as such using the language at work (including travelling abroad). A slightly smaller proportion (46%) evoke here ability to studying abroad and possibility of using it on holidays abroad (47%).

§ 88% of Europeans think that knowing languages other than their mother tongue is very useful.

§ Two thirds of Europeans (67%) consider English as one of the two most useful languages for themselves.

§ Languages perceived as the most useful that come up right after are the following: German (17%), French (16%), Spanish (14%) and Chinese (6%).

§ There has been a decrease in the proportion thinking that French is important (-9 percentage points), and in those thinking German is an important language for personal development (-5 points). Europeans are more likely now than they were in 2005 to think that Chinese is an important language (+ 4 points).

§ 98% of Europeans consider mastering other foreign languages as useful for the future of their children.  

§ Among languages perceived as such, French and German are mentioned by 20% of Europeans each, Spanish by 16% and Chinese by 14%. Around four in five Europeans (79%) consider English as one of the most useful languages for the future of the children.

§ There has been a decrease (-13 percentage points) since 2005 in the proportion of Europeans thinking that French is important for children to learn for their future and a (-8 points) in the proportion thinking German important for children to learn.

§ Whilst the perception that Chinese is a useful language for personal development is slightly more widespread now than in 2005 (+4 percentage points), the perception of its value as an important language for children to learn is significantly more widespread than in 2005 (+12 points).

§ Europeans are most likely to say that free lessons would make them significantly more likely to learn or improve skills in a language, mentioned by around three in ten (29%). Around a fifth of Europeans say they would be significantly more likely to learn or improve language skills if they were paid to learn (19%), if they were able to learn it in a country in which it is spoken (18%), and if it improved career prospects (18%).

§ The most widely mentioned barrier to learning another language is lack of motivation, with a third (34%) of Europeans saying this discourages them. Around a quarter of Europeans cite lack of time to study properly (28%) and that it is too expensive (25%). A fifth (19%) of Europeans say that not being good at languages discourages them.
Source: GraphicStock

§ The most widespread method used to learn a foreign language is through lessons at school. Just over two thirds of Europeans (68%) have learnt a foreign language in this way. Much smaller proportions of Europeans have learnt a foreign language by talking informally to a native speaker (16%), with a teacher outside school in group language lessons (15%), and by going on frequent or long trips to the country in which the language is spoken (15%). Europeans are most likely to think that school language lessons are the most effective way they have learnt a foreign language.

§ There is a broad consensus among Europeans that everyone in the EU should be able to speak at least one foreign language, with more than four in five (84%) agreeing with this view.
§ Europeans, for the most part, support the EU’s vision that EU citizens should be able to speak at least two foreign languages; more than seven in ten (72%) agree that people in the EU should be able to speak more than one language in addition to their mother tongue.

§ The majority of Europeans (81%) agree that all languages spoken within the EU should be treated equally. Even if around seven in ten (69%) think that Europeans should be able to speak a common language this view does not extend to believing that any one language should have priority over others.

§ Slightly more than half of respondents (53%) agree that EU institutions should adopt a single language when communicating with citizens, whilst more than two in five disapprove of this idea.

§ More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents think that improving language skills should be a policy priority.

§ More than two in five respondents (44%) agree that that they prefer subtitles to dubbing when watching foreign films or TV programmes, but a slightly larger proportion (52%) disagree that they prefer subtitles.
Source GraphicStock

§ Europeans recognise that translation has an important role to play in a wide range of areas across society, most notably in education and learning (76%) and in health and safety (71%). European perceive translation as important while looking for a job (68%), getting news about events in the rest of the world (67%), participating in or getting information about EU activities (60%), accessing public services (59%) or enjoying leisure activities such as TV, films and reading (57%).

§ Just over two in five Europeans (43%) say that translation has an important role to play in their everyday lives, and just under one in six (16%) consider this role to be very important. Three in ten Europeans (30%) say that translation plays no role at all in their everyday lives.

Source: SPECIAL EUROBAROMETER 386 “Europeans and their Languages”