The proportion of students at the upper secondary level learning foreign languages has decreased from 74.0% in the 2011-2012 school year to 72.1% in 2013-2014, which is a similar proportion as in 2007-2008. This is among the results of Statistics Iceland’s data collection on students in upper secondary schools learning foreign languages during the school years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

Spanish is the third most studied language
There were more students learning Spanish than German for the first time in 2012-2013. In 2013-2014 there were 4,150 students learning Spanish, 3,873 learning German and 1,792 learning French in upper secondary education. English is the most commonly learnt language at the upper secondary level with almost 15 thousand students in 2013-2014, almost 60% of students at the upper secondary level. Danish is the second most commonly learnt language with just over 7 thousand students. These two languages are compulsory for most students at the upper secondary level.


For the first time since Statistics Iceland started its data collection in 1999 Arabic was taught at the upper secondary level in 2012-2013, when 20 students learned this language. In 2012-2013 Faroese was also taught for the first time since this data collection started, with 37 registered students, and 21 registered students in 2013-2014.

Fewer students learn many foreign languages
On average, students in upper secondary schools learned 1.34 languages during the 2012-2013 school year, and 1.31 languages during the 2013-2014 school year. The average number of languages learnt has not been lower since Statistics Iceland started publishing comparable data in 2002-2003. The average 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.

More females than males learn foreign languages in upper secondary schools
More females than males study foreign languages in upper secondary schools. A total of 72.7% of female and 71.6% of male students studied a foreign language in 2013-2014. 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. A total of 35.5% of females and 28.2% of males studied two or more foreign languages in 2013-2014.

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.


Further Information

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