The spaniards have a low level of English. The surveys collected by Eurostat and the new report carried out by the company dedicated to the teaching of languages Education First place the country in the last positions in Europe. The bad position is explained, in part, by structural reasons: the relatively large size and the GDP per capita is relatively modest for the context-continental, added to the fact of having a powerful global language, Spanish, are all factors that according to the experts play always against the learning of foreign languages.

The data issued, however, other signs of concern: unlike other countries, Spain has barely improved in the last decade. And its population of 25 to 34 years has been very delayed with respect to the level attained by the young people of countries whose general population had 10 years ago rates of knowledge similar to the Spanish, such as Portugal, Greece and Italy.


why don’t we learn English well? Does the bilingualism in the school? The ‘boom’ of bilingualism filled the classrooms of teachers who have not mastered the English School, the luxury which clamps to the poor is Born the Education Forum of THE COUNTRY

The new international classification of 2019 on English proficiency developed by Education First, a company founded in Sweden in 1965, which publishes an annual ranking known as the EF English Proficiency Index, and which in this edition is based on the results of 2.3 million tests carried out in a hundred countries, relegates Spain to the post 25 of the 33 States analyzed in Europe and 35 in the world, in addition to detecting a null progression in the management of the tongue with respect to the results of 2018.

Eurostat reflects, for its part, in 2007, 46.6% of spaniards aged 25 to 64 years did not know any foreign language. In 2016, the latest data available, the percentage had hardly moved (45.8 per cent). In the same period, however, Portugal reduced the proportion of 51% to 31%; Greece, 43% to 33%, and Italy, from 38% to 34%. In addition, in these three countries more than 82% of the population 25 to 34 years had mastered at least one foreign language, while in Spain only made it to 66%. The statistical office also confirms that the most studied foreign language in the EU is, overwhelmingly, the English (what is in the 94% of the pupils of second cycle of Secondary education).

“The statistics are bad. One of the explanations has to do with the wealth. In the knowledge of languages, as in the rest of educational outcomes, the level of socio-economic influences, and Spain is still a relatively poor country in Europe. Another factor that weighs in Spain is the size. If you compare income countries equivalent, it is normal that big to have a performance worse. The smaller ones tend to be more open to the outside, and its citizens are more job opportunities, and other the knowledge of foreign languages. The great ones have an internal market more and this does not are concerned about both,” says Antonio Cabrales, a professor at the University College London has investigated the learning of English in Spain through the model of bilingual schooling.

France, for example, appears far worse portrayed than Belgium in surveys and tests. And Austria, better than Germany. The crossed data of Eurostat and of Education First located in the first position in europe knowledge of English (in countries where this is not the official language) to the nordic countries, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Cabrales is pessimistic: “In several of the countries that have improved greatly in the last decade, we have observed that the young generation has put the batteries. In our case, young people are bad. The truth, taking into account the weight of tourism in our economy is incomprehensible.”

Fourth global language

Spain has, in addition, with the Spanish, the fourth language more powerful in the world who speak, with varying degrees of domain, 580 million people, according to the report presented in October by the Instituto Cervantes. And as a result benefits from a wide publishing industry, audiovisual translation and dubbing. “That is something that does not exist in other countries, where people are compelled to in a natural way see, for example, most film and television in the original version,” says the professor of the University College. United kingdom and Ireland are counted among the seven european countries (of the 33 that collects Eurostat) where the ignorance of foreign languages exceeds that of Spain. The other five are Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary and Romania.

Maureen McAlinden, project manager of the British Council in Spain, has a more optimistic view, which finds support in other data of Eurostat: when what is analyzed is what percentage of the population has a domain high in the best foreign language he speaks, Spain scale positions up to be placed honourably in the middle of the table. That is to say, who you need to speak good English speak it, even if you have to do it by paying to the inability of the education system to ensure it.

“The learning of English in Spain has been transformed in the past 20 years and the level has improved a lot. I’ve noticed personally and also what we see in our centers,” says McAlinden, who came to Spain in 1996. “Because there are not so many courses for the beginner level, A-1, A-2 or B-1. Now the customers are asking for more of B-2, C-1 and also seek to certify this class of levels they already have. In addition, more than 12,000 Spanish students study degrees and postgraduate courses in the Uk, to which must be added those who make it in English in other countries or on programs of their own Spanish universities”.

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Lights and shadows of the bilingual education

The Education Forum of THE COUNTRY have been asked this week on the website of this newspaper why in Spain do not learn English well. Dozens of teachers have endorsed as the primary cause of the low level of orality of many classes, when that is, they stress, the natural way to learn a language. Ruben Chacon, newly-elected dean of the Philology of the national university of distance education, shares the vision, but believes that the responsibility for this must lie largely in the educational system. “The language you learn with use and exposure. But if in Spain the teachers tend to use more written activities is because they are more manageable when in the classroom you have 25 or 30 students. The interactivity and story-telling should have a role, but for that you have to have ratios much lower. We need greater investment to improve this aspecto and also the training of teachers,” he says.

The Education Forum has also asked for the result that are giving the bilingual schools in English, in some communities, they already represent more than half of the total. The opinions in this case are very divided. A part of the teachers and principals who have participated argued that teaching the language through other subjects has greatly improved the English proficiency of the students. Another criticism is that the model sacrifices the content of other subjects and whose secretion; they go well with those who receive reinforcement of school and punishes in addition to students with learning difficulties. Experts such as professor of the University College Antonio Cabrales a lack of conclusive studies.

In Spain there are, in addition, six communities —Galicia, the Basque Country, Navarre, Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic islands— where more than of bilingual education there is talk of trilingual by their language co-official status. Chacón, who has coordinated the congress of bilingualism Biuned, believe that this does not imply a limitation to learn English: “upside down, knowing a second language makes it easier to know a third and a fourth”.


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