The proportion of students at the upper secondary level learning foreign languages was 72.2% in 2014–2015 and has been similar for the last three years. The proportion was just under 74% in 2011–2012. The number of students learning Danish and German increased slightly from the previous year, but Spanish is still the third most studied language after English and Danish. These are among the results of Statistics Iceland’s data collection on students in upper secondary education learning foreign languages during the school year 2014–2015.
More common for females than males to study many foreign languages
In 2014–2015 the number of males learning foreign languages in upper secondary schools was higher than the number of females. The difference was insignificant or 4 students. This is the first time, since Statistics Iceland started collecting these data that more males than females learn foreign languages. One of the reasons is that almost 500 more males than females studied at the upper secondary level in the autumn of 2014.
The proportion of females studying foreign languages at the upper secondary level was higher than the proportion of males. A total of 73.7% of female and 70.8% of male students studied a foreign language in 2014–2015. It is also more common for females to study many foreign languages, which coincides with them being more numerous among students in the language line of study.
Spanish is the third most studied language in upper secondary education
There were more students learning Spanish than German for the first time in 2012–2013. This increase has continued and in 2014–2015 there were 4,231 students learning Spanish, 3,990 learning German and 1,664 learning French. English is the most commonly learnt language at the upper secondary level with 17,400 students, around 60% of students at the upper secondary level. Danish is the second most commonly learnt language with almost 7,200 students. These two languages are compulsory for most students at the upper secondary level. The number of students learning Danish and German increased slightly from the previous year.
In 2014–2015 138 students learned Italian, 66 studied Swedish and 42 Norwegian. Furthermore, 77 students studied Japanese and 7 students learned Chinese.
Fewer students learn many foreign languages
On average, students in upper secondary schools learned 1.34 languages during the 2014–2015 school year, the same proportion as in 2012–2013, and a little higher than in 2013–2014, when it was 1.31. The average number of languages studied was highest during the school years 2004–2006, 1.47 languages. The main reason for this reduction is that fewer students learn two or more languages, which coincides with fewer students selecting the language line of study in recent years.
About the data
Data on students learning foreign languages are collected twice a year from upper secondary schools. However, the data only include students studying foreign languages in the spring semester who were registered students in the autumn semester of the same school year. The data refer to students who learn foreign languages during the respective school year. Information is only collected on living foreign languages. Students in Latin, classical Greek and Esperanto are therefore not included.