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Don't speak

Parliament

According to a Eurostat survey, more than three quarters of Hungarians between the ages of 25 and 64 do not speak a second language.

According to Eurostat’s 2009 survey, 74.8% of Hungarians between the ages of 25 and 64 do not speak a second language. Although the number in itself does not present news, recent media speculation puts a whole new light on it.

Online portal Origo.hu got a hold of a government working paper which stated that the English language was too easy to learn, evoking “the false image in students that learning any foreign language is that simple.”

However, the Education Ministry dismissed the report and rejected a rumor that the government was planning to push out English as a foreign language in schools. According to the statement, the English language will continue to be a "basic requirement" in school curricula in the new education law.

Despite the false alarm, the fact that very few Hungarians fluently speak a foreign language is true. In 2008, 33% of primary school students studied English as a first language. Meanwhile, the same rates in Sweden, Italy and Spain were 100%, 99% and 98%, respectively.

The trend is somewhat more positive among upper secondary students with 78% studying English. However, once again, this number puts Hungary at the bottom of the list, with countries like Czech Republic (100%), Sweden (100%), and Finland and France (99%) the leaders among European states.

German is the second most popular foreign language among Hungarians with 19% of primary school and 49% of upper secondary students learning it.

The main problem is the age at which a person is exposed to another language. Although the ‘critical period’ hypothesis, which states that a cut-off age for fully mastering a foreign language is 12, the general principle that adult learners only rarely gain native-like knowledge of a second language as opposed to children is still maintained.

The environment outside of educational institutions is not any friendlier towards learning a second language. Almost all television programs and half of movies in theaters are dubbed. Meanwhile, many EU states, including neighboring Romania, limit dubbing to children’s shows, while using subtitles for the rest of foreign programs and movies. SA

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