The European language landscape: a tour of the English language

Although English is far from being the most common mother tongue globally, it enjoys the status of an international language. Spoken by nearly 1 billion people, it is the most widely learned foreign language in the world. 

Ranked first among the most influential languages, it has become an essential part of business, communication, science and diplomacy. The majority of learners agree that English is the language of business par excellence: in France alone, 48% of workers use English on a daily basis as part of their job. In many countries, India for example, a thorough knowledge of the language can lead to a higher salary. 

But English is not only the language of international business: it is also the language of travel, of openness to the world and of leisure. In a 2007 sample of Swiss students, 91.5% said they were learning English to facilitate international travel – making it the number one reason for learning, just ahead of getting a job. This phenomenon is also true outside of school classrooms, since one in three people learn English to travel… and ultimately, to be able to communicate with others.

European languages, which are sometimes described as “secondary”, are still very much in demand among learners, students, travelers, migrants, and professionals… and cultural-seekers in all four corners of the world! Beyond practical or professional objectives, intellectual curiosity, the beauty of the language, the attraction of a way of life, a culture, as well as the desire to connect with others are all factors that contribute to triggering the desire to learn. The supremacy of English has not stifled learners’ interest in other languages, even those considered marginal. Evolution in the way we learn languages and technological advances also have a role to play in this phenomenon.

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