One of the coolest things about living in Europe is, in my view, the cultural and linguistic diversity of our region. The European Union has 24 official languages. Many Europeans are fluent in one or more European languages. But which EU state actually had the highest proportion of multilingual people? If someone asked me that question I would probably say either Sweden or the Netherlands. I am yet to meet a single monolingual Swedish or Dutch person. But according to the article in Luxembourger Post I came across recently, the European Commission conducted a survey into linguistic ability of EU citizens and Luxembourg came top of that particular ranking.
According to the results of the study, 98% of the Luxembourg population are proficient in a foreign language and 84% can speak two foreign languages. Impressive and perhaps not that surprising, considering that the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German and Luxembourgish. Interestingly enough though, it appears both German and French have significantly declined in popularity in Luxembourg over the past years.
Hungary came bottom of the survey as two-thirds of of its population were found to have no foreign language skills and Portugal, Ireland and, sadly, the UK did not do much better. Given that English, the global lingua franca, is the official language of the UK and Ireland, it is to a certain extent understandable that most UK and Irish citizens are not particularly motivated to learn foreign languages. But I am rather puzzled by Hungary's low ranking in this survey. Hungarian is a very difficult language to learn and foreigners visiting or moving to Hungary can hardly be expected to be able to communicate with locals in Hungarian. When I lived in Budapest in the 90s, I remember that a lot of people I met there either spoke or were learning German and of course English was gaining popularity as well. Very strange indeed. I am also surprised by Portugal's results, I always found that the Portuguese were more adept at learning foreign languages than, say, the Spanish.
If you are keen to gain some further insights into the language skills of Europeans, here is a link to the full Eurobarometer report http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf
Also, check out a visual representation of the survey's results here: http://jakubmarian.com/average-number-of-languages-spoken-by-the-eu-population/