In the school year 2017–2018 the proportion of students at the upper secondary level learning at least one foreign language was 71.7%, a similar proportion as in the previous year. On the other hand, the proportion decreased in 2018–2019, when 68.6% of upper secondary students learned at least one foreign language. The proportion of students learning foreign languages was 72–74% during the school years 2003–2015.
The number of students learning foreign languages has decreased from 19,342 in the school year 2011–2012 to 14,750 in 2018–2019. Similarly, the total number of students at the upper secondary level has decreased by approximately 4,600 during the same period. In many schools at the upper secondary level, a new curriculum was implemented in the autumn of 2015, where the duration of studies for the matriculation examination was shortened. Due to this change, the number of foreign language courses required to complete the examination decreased, which partly explains the decrease in the number of students learning foreign languages. In addition, fewer students in vocational programmes study foreign languages, as changes in the reading plans have resulted in fewer students studying foreign languages.
Most students learn two languages
On average, students at the upper secondary level learned 1.31 languages per year in 2015–2018. This average dropped to 1.24 during the 2018-2019 school year. The average number of languages learned was highest in 2004-2006, when it was 1.47 languages. The main reason for this drop is that fewer students learn two languages in the same school year.
Most students who learn foreign languages still learn two languages, but the proportion has declined. In 2016-2018 around 32% of all students learned two languages but almost 28% in 2018-2019. Almost one-third of all students in 2018-2019, or 31.4%, did not learn any foreign language that school year.
More females choose to learn Spanish while males choose German
Spanish and German were the most common third languages to be studied in 2017–2019, as was the case in previous years. In 2012–2013, more students learned Spanish than German for the first time and that is still the situation in more recent years. A total of 3,686 students learned Spanish in 2018–2019, while 3,189 students learned German. Females were more likely to study Spanish, as just over 2,200 females were enrolled in a Spanish class in 2018–2019, but approximately 1,650 females were enrolled in a German class. Among males, German was more popular than Spanish, as 1,539 males learned German while 1,480 chose Spanish.
Fewer students learn Danish
The most common foreign language studied at the upper secondary level was English, with 13,483 students in the school year 2017–2018 and 12,465 the following year. The second most common language was Danish, with 5,588 students in the school year 2017–2018 and 5,252 students in 2018–2019. The proportion of students learning Danish has decreased considerably in recent years, as can be observed in figure 2.
Japanese language courses have again become more popular among students at the upper secondary level. In 2018–2019, 98 students learned Japanese, 37 males and 61 females. Previously, there had been around 60 students learning Japanese, but their number was greatest in the school year 2010–2011, when 147 students took Japanese courses.
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. Information is only collected on living foreign languages. Students in Latin, classical Greek and Esperanto are therefore not included.