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Swedish students excel at English: study

Swedish students excel at English: study

Published: 21 Jun 2012 11:53 GMT+02:00
Updated: 21 Jun 2012 11:53 GMT+02:00

Swedish 15-year-olds are very proficient in the English language while not as good at Spanish, according to the results of a comprehensive international language study presented on Thursday.

The results, presented on Thursday by the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket), show that Swedish students are very advanced in the English language.

A total of 66 percent of 15-year-olds reached the highest required level in reading comprehension, while 77 percent did the same for listening comprehension.

However, Swedish students didn't perform as well when it came to writing in English. While only 28 percent reached the highest score level in written English, a large number of Swedish students reached the next to highest level.

While the study included students from 14 countries, only students from Sweden and France were tested in Spanish, with Swedish pupils posting much weaker results.

24 percent of Swedish students didn’t reach what is required of beginner level Spanish in reading comprehension.

For listening comprehension the result was 37 percent and for written Spanish 45 percent. The French students were somewhat better at Spanish than the Swedes, the study found.

According to the education agency, the discrepancy between students’ abilities in English and Spanish can have several explanations. English is a higher status language and is also perceived as more useful.

In addition, students are more likely to come in contact with English in their spare time, according to the agency.

Swedes are exposed to the language at a younger age, and English classes are obligatory in Swedish schools.

The countries that took part in the study were Sweden, Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Britain, Estonia, France, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

A total of 53,000 students were tested, of which 3,000 were Swedish. All countries took part with the two foreign languages studied by the largest number of students.

The children’s language skills were measures after the common reference for language skills in Europe and the student’s abilities were graded into five levels of proficiency.

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Your comments about this article

12:43 June 21, 2012 by Shibumi
Wow... they needed a study to come up with this?

French kids suck at English because all TV and movies are dubbed into French. They are better at Spanish because, like French, it is also a romance language and as such, Spanish is basically mis-pronounced French with added "a"s and "o"s on the end of words.

Swedish kids rock at English because only children's movies are dubbed and they are exposed to a lot of English from a young age.
13:57 June 21, 2012 by Frobobbles
It is astonishing that the Swedish kids are so good in Spanish!
14:24 June 21, 2012 by skogsbo
The question to ask is why are they still teaching Spanish, would it not be better to teach German as a 3rd language, or any of the Asian languages. Spanish provides a balance between different bases of language, but is of little long term use.
15:28 June 21, 2012 by riose
@skogsbo

When you have children you can teach them Korean.

North Korea is a virgin market.
16:16 June 21, 2012 by sergisr
Even in its country Spanish is considered a low status language. Here in Barcelona you can guess the sociocultural level of people according to the language they speak mainly, Catalan or Spanish.
17:09 June 21, 2012 by Ron Pavellas
As a native English speaker, I am ever grateful to the many Swedes I have met who are so excellent in English. I have lived here for ten years and do not feel alien, despite my extreme deficiency in the Swedish language.
18:29 June 21, 2012 by Tarc the Mexan
#6: you've lived in Sweden for ten years and still can't speak the language properly?

What the hell is wrong with you?
19:30 June 21, 2012 by towns
Yep, I lived as an ex-pat in several European countries so far and Swedes are definitely the best in English (of at least the countries I've been to). In general, knowledge of vocabulary and pronunciation is top notch!

Also, I endorse Shibumi's comment. Sub-titles work MUCH better than dubs when it comes to being competent in English. I've noticed this from being in Italy and the Czech Republic (were dubbing is the norm) vs. Sweden and Finland where subtitles are preferred.
21:40 June 21, 2012 by thomasson44
In most countries where movies are not dubbed, children have the possibility to be more acquainted with the English language and improve their skills. In the Netherlands and Belgium, all movies are sub-titled. At the time my children were very young, I had experimented by letting them watch children programs at the BBC and Sky TV (was available on our cable). To my astonishment they had learned the language just by watching.
22:22 June 21, 2012 by dizzymoe33
That is how my German mother learned to speak English was by watching TV. Overall English is easy to learn the only thing that is difficult is when you use a word that has two different meanings that can be confusing.
10:27 June 22, 2012 by Marc the Texan
English will soon be the national language of Sweden. Swedes brought it on themselves and they seem to have few worries about it. Give it a couple more generations and the children of Sweden will not know how to, nor want to speak Swedish. I've already seen huge changes in my exposure to Sweden, which has only been about 12 years.
12:24 June 22, 2012 by Greysuede
It's a great shame that Swedish kids aren't taught good German, Spanish and Chinese !

English language is a widespread propaganda to glorify the violence, pornography, drugs and all sort of english lawlifeness !
12:33 June 22, 2012 by calebian22
LOL, Tarc. No frigging kidding. Ten years is a long time to still be so deficient. Apparently I speak like Tony Irving, something I am furiously working on too change, but at least people understand me after 3.5 years.
12:35 June 22, 2012 by HelmiVainikka
#10 Actually thats more or less how it worked for me as well.

When I was in 4th grade maaaaaaany many years back we got a satellite dish on the roof of our house and with it, came a flood of english speaking channels.

I found them fascinating and watched those more than anything else, worked like a charm.

Countries should remove dubs completely and simply subtitle-on-demand the content and within 1-2 generations all of Europe would be excellent at English.

It is not a hard language to begin with.
21:38 June 22, 2012 by glamelixir
Yes, they don't say "how much is the clock", "the clock is too late" or "I will learn you something" any more...
21:20 June 29, 2012 by Exolon
Yeah, as a native English speaker, I was always amazed at how comfortable Swedes are at speaking English.

Here in Ireland, most of us can barely speak our own language, so it's a bit embarrassing and humbling to meet so many Swedish people who are totally fluent at English and (of course) their own language.
20:31 July 1, 2012 by Tom Windsor
Well done Sweden! Other parts of Europe are clearly not as good at English. It would be good if Sweden were to take steps to promote and use the planned international language Esperanto.

Esperanto is even easier than English for Swedes to speak.
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