Published: 12 December 2018

At least one foreign language is spoken by 93 per cent of the population aged 18 to 64

More than nine out of ten Finns aged 18 to 64 said they knew at least one foreign language. The number is the same as five years before. The dependency between the level of education and knowledge of foreign languages has decreased and language skills have increased from 1995 most among those with merely basic level qualifications, the share having grown by 37 percentage points by 2017. This information derives from Statistics Finland's Adult Education Survey 2017.

Persons with knowledge of at least one foreign language by level of education in 1995, 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2017 (population aged 18 to 64), %

Persons with knowledge of at least one foreign language by level of education in 1995, 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2017 (population aged 18 to 64), %

Those with longer basic education knew foreign languages more often than those with shorter basic education. When nearly all of those with tertiary level degrees knew at least one foreign language, this was so for 91 per cent of those with upper secondary level qualifications and for 87 per cent of persons with basic level qualifications.

The dependency between the level of education and knowledge of foreign languages has decreased considerably in 22 years. During that time, those with only basic level qualifications have increased their language skills most, by 37 percentage points. The language skills of those with upper secondary level qualifications also increased steadily from 1995 to 2012, by nearly 20 percentage points. In 2017, the difference between the language skills of those with basic level qualifications and tertiary level qualifications was only 10 percentage points.

Persons with knowledge of at least one foreign language by gender in 1995, 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2017 (population aged 18 to 64), %

Persons with knowledge of at least one foreign language by gender in 1995, 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2017 (population aged 18 to 64), %

Knowledge of languages grew from 1995 until 2012, when 93 per cent of the population aged 18 to 64 said they knew some foreign language at least a little. In 1995 and 2000, ten percentage points fewer men than women said they knew foreign languages. The difference had halved by 2017. In 2017, there were as many foreign language speakers as five years ago, 93 per cent of the population aged 18 to 64.

Nearly all persons aged under 45 knew at least one foreign language (96 to 97 per cent). Among older people, 92 per cent of those aged 45 to 54 knew at least one language and 83 per cent of those aged 55 to 64.

The most spoken foreign languages were in the order English, Swedish and German. Nine out of ten persons aged 18 to 64 said they knew English, seven out of ten Swedish and three out of ten German.

The respondents of the Adult Education Survey were asked about their native language and what foreign languages they knew. They were also requested to assess their level of language skills from the classification given to them. The lowest knowledge level meant understanding a few words and phrases, the highest level an almost perfect command of a language.


Source: Participation in adult education 2017, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Helena Niemi 029 551 2488, Timo Ruuskanen 029 551 3620, aet.statistics@stat.fi

Director in charge: Jari Tarkoma

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Updated 12.12.2018

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Participation in adult education [e-publication].
ISSN=2489-6926. Language skills 2017. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 20.4.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/aku/2017/04/aku_2017_04_2018-12-12_tie_001_en.html