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European survey on language competences

European survey on language competences



Communication (COM(2007) 184 final) — standards for the European survey on language competences


It introduces a European survey with the aim of providing countries, policymakers, teachers and practitioners with reliable and comparable data on foreign language competence in the European Union (EU).


Skills and languagesto be tested

  • Tests cover reading comprehension, listening comprehension and writing in the first survey, with the purpose of measuring overall foreign language competence in the 2 most widely taught languages in each EU country, from the most-taught official languages of the EU: English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Speaking skills will be included in subsequent surveys.
  • Tests in other languages can be included in the first round of the survey as national options.

Competence level scale

The survey should be based on measuring increasing levels of language competence from level A1, the first or basic level, to level B2, an intermediate level, on the scale of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages.

Contextual information

  • A questionnaire for students, teachers, head teachers and governments gathers background information that will allow analysis of possible factors which might affect language learning, such as socio-economic factors and migrant status.
  • Other important background data include whether the subject is compulsory or voluntary, whether the teacher has formal education in teaching languages or is a native speaker, whether pupils are streamed according to ability and their gender.

Population to be tested

The target population is drawn from pupils in the final year of lower secondary education (ISCED 2), or, if a second foreign language is not taught at this level, the second year of upper secondary education (ISCED 3).


Computer-based and manual recording are allowed in the survey. The computer-based tests are made available for countries to adapt to national needs outside the survey, and use open source software.


The national cost of the survey depends on its final structure. The international costs, funded by the EU as part of the lifelong learning programme (2007–2013), covered the development and coordination of the tests, identification of the sample and sampling methods, as well as the analysis and reporting.

Implementing the survey

  • Participating EU countries had to ensure that the necessary organisational structures were in place to carry out the survey.
  • The Commission was to gather data, and analyse and draw up the final results in cooperation with the European Indicator of Language Competence Advisory Board and the participating countries.


Foreign language competences remain high on the EU’s education agenda with both the Erasmus+ programme and the ET 2020 strategy for cooperation in education and training giving it high priority.

For more information, see:


Communication from the Commission to the Council — Framework for the European survey on language competences (COM(2007) 184 final, 13.4.2007)

last update 21.11.2016