The Independent newspaper said on Friday that research to be published early in 2005 will reveal fewer people from Britain can speak another language than any other country in Europe.
Britain comes bottom of the pile of 28 countries surveyed in the report to be published by the UK‘s national resource centre for language teachers.
The report will be included in the Centre for Information Language Teaching’s 2005 handbook and is based on European Union data in which 1000 people from each country were interviewed and the percentages able to speak a particular foreign language added together.
Britain scored a ranking of just 34, behind Hungary (35) and neighbouring Ireland (39).
Luxembourg performed best with 244 ranking points, followed by the Netherlands (159) and Denmark (154).
No English dominance
The report also showed that while English is the most common second language across Europe, German, Russian and French are more widely spoken in some countries.
“These figures show that English, while important, is far from having the all-pervasive status in Europe often attributed to it,” the report says.
“In Romania, as many people speak French as English. French is also strong in Italy and Portugal. German is widely spoken in central Europe and the Baltic countries, with more Czechs and Slovaks speaking German than English.”
The report also says that Russian will grow in relevance amongst the eastern European former Soviet satellite states that joined the European Union in May.
“With the access of the new countries, Russian achieves significance as an important lingua franca.”