German and Spanish in Europe

These days I have been wondering how the German and the Spanish languages are perceived within Europe and among the Europeans. After having done some research, I found a very interesting report written by the European Commission called Europeans and their Languages, and I would like to share with you some interesting facts about those two languages:

ES Language intext
  • The most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%). The fourth place is shared by Spanish (8%) and Polish (8%).
  • The four most widely spoken foreign languages in Europe are English (38%), French (12%), German (11%) and Spanish (7%).
  • German (7%) and Spanish (5%) is understood well enough by the Europeans to follow the radio or television news in those languages.
  • German (5%) and Spanish (3%) is understood well enough by the Europeans to communicate online ( via email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Languages perceived as the most useful after English are German (17%), French (16%), Spanish (14%) and Chinese (6%).
  • 98% of Europeans consider that mastering other foreign languages is useful for the future of their children. Some of the languages perceived as such are German (20%) and Spanish (16%).

When asked about how interested in learning new languages Europeans are, 54% of the German and 28 % of the Spanish population said that they have not learned a language recently and they won’t start in the coming year. However, the percentage of people who claimed having continued learning languages in the last 2 years is quite similar: 15 % in Germany and 12% in Spain.

When asked about the main advantages of learning a new language, Germans and Spanish coincide in that they are job related. A 79% of the Spanish speakers think that it is useful to be able to work in another country. For the 66 % of the German speakers, the main advantage is being able to use it at work (including travelling abroad on businesses).

According to the report, Europeans think that free lessons are the best incentive to learn or improve their language skills. The second motivation for Germans is having the opportunity to learn the language in the country where it is spoken or finding a course that suit their schedule, both reasons with 24%. For the Spanish, the second source of motivation would be being paid for it (26%). Finally, both countries agree that the most effective way to learn a language is visiting for long or often the country where it is spoken.

Are you planning to learn a new language? What is your motivation to do it?

European Commission. Europeans and their Languages – Eurobarometer nº 386. Directorate
General for Education and Culture. Brussels (Belgium), 2012. Retrieved from


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