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Table: Who's Winning the Race


Proportion of people who say they speak English. Number of fluent speakers is likely far lower.

NETHERLANDS 80%

English starts in first grade and is prominent on TV and radio. Movies are never dubbed.

GERMANY 55%

Depending on the state, English begins between ages 5 and 10. In the past decade, eastern Germany, formerly focused on Russian, has put on a big English kick.

FRANCE 40%

Children start at 10, but the format is often criticized as too bookish.

ITALY 39%

High school students average only one to three hours of English a week. Result: Some Roman tour guides give English spiels without understanding what the words mean.

SPAIN 36%

Three hours a week starting at age 8. The government wants to lower it to kindergarten but lacks teachers.

Data: European Commission, BusinessWeek


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