English in Spain and Austria
Diary submitted by Laura H. Valencia
Will English become as important to Spaniards as it is already is to Austrians?
Despite displaying some similarities, Spain and Austria diverge from each other in terms of the success of teaching and learning English.
As an intern in Spain, I have quickly noticed that the English language level is not (yet) as high as it is in Austria. Although many of my students confirm my impression that only recently Spain has started to take an interest in raising the general English language level of the population, most of my students are already attempting to get some kind of certification to prove their skills. The FCE is most popular, followed by the CAE and PET. I frequently ask my students about their rationale for taking these language exams. The vast majority have responded that they either need it for their professional lives (e.g. promotion, internships abroad) or for their university degrees (e.g. entry requirements).
For me, these responses reflect the growing significance of English in Spain. According to findings published by the CIS, however, Spaniards still rank low when it comes to English language proficiency when compared to other countries: “63% of the Spanish population claims not to speak English and only 23% say they speak it well” (teflibera 2011). These findings were also discussed in an article published by teflibera, which examines the different reasons why English did not play a crucial role in Spain in the past. Lack of motivation, infrequent travels abroad and the significance of the Spanish language on a global scale are plausible explanations why English is only now gathering momentum in Spain.
In Austria, having a good command of the English language is not only a sign of prestige, but also a prerequisite for being successful in one’s professional life. Only last year did the Austrian educational system see nation-wide standardization. The assessment of foreign languages also became revolutionized and standardized to ensure that all Austrian students accomplish the same language level. At the age of 18, students should have achieved a solid B2 level in English. English also forms a requisite qualification for the majority of university degrees.
Thus, students should be adequately equipped to work in international settings. Even at an early age, children should gain their first insights into the English language. As a result, many kindergartens and primary schools, especially the ones in the major cities, hire TEFL teachers to acquaint the children with the rudiments of the English language. Native speakers of English are in high demand. They can find teaching positions at private schools and at universities as well as at tutoring centers straight away. The continuing success of EFL is also shown by the fact that even more than 70% of people over the age of 50 possess at least an A2 level in English. According to one ranking published by EF, Austria ranks amongst the countries with the highest language proficiency in English.
When comparing these two countries, it becomes clear that the English language plays a significant role in both. Although EFL is only now gaining momentum in Spain, it appears likely that the English language will become as important to this Iberian country as it is to Austria.
- “Austria“. EF Education First. Accessed on 26 August, 2017. http://www.ef.com.es/epi/regions/europe/austria/.
- “Standardisierte kompetenzorientierte Reifeprüfung“. BMB Bundesministerium für Bildung. Last update on 17
November, 2016. https://www.bmb.gv.at/schulen/unterricht/ba/mrp_lfsp.html.
- “Factors Affecting the Level of English in Spain”. tefliberia. Richard. Published on 2 December, 2011. https://www.tefl-iberia.com/blog/factors-affecting-the-level-of-english-in-spain/.