Language competence of Slovak population: German language in comparison with other languages

On May 31, 2011 Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) presented results of a survey Language competence of Slovak population: German language in comparison with other languages. The survey was commissioned by the Goethe Institute and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Representative sociological survey was conducted on a sample of 1086 inhabitants aged 15+. Data were collected in March 2011by the FOCUS agency through a network of trained interviewers.


Press Release in Slovak:  Jazyková kompetentnosť ľudí na Slovensku

Pressemitteilung - Fremdsprachenkompetenz der Menschen in der Slowakei

Presentation in Slovak: Jazyková kompetentnosť ľudí na Slovensku

Sociologists Zora Bútorová and Oľga Gyárfášová from IVO introduced the findings of their research on a press conference on May 31, 2011

Research results at the German-Slovak Economic Forum

On June 2, 2011 Zora Bútorová presented research findings at the German- Slovak Economic Forum (2. Deutsch-Slowakisches Wirstschaftsgespräch), which was opened by the Prime Minister Iveta Radičová. Among the participants of the panel discussion were Labor Minister Jozef Mihál, Minister for Science and Economy of the State of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany Brigita Wolf, board member of the Federation of Mechanical Engineering Industries of Slovakia Juraj Borgula and member of Presidium of National Union of Employers Ján Oravec.

Key research findings

From among six foreign languages included into the survey – Russian, German, French, English, Spanish and Italian – the most widespread in Slovakia is the ability to communicate in Russian (54 % respondents declared that they are able to somehow (at least a little) communicate in this language), German (49%), and English (46%). The ability to communicate in French, Spanish and Italian is much less common. As for the level of proficiency, English is Number 1 in Slovakia. On a 5-point scale of proficiency, where 1 means excellent proficiency and 5 means no ability to communicate, 14 % respondents have evaluated their language skills with grades one or two and 14% of respondents with grade three. German is it the second strongest language: 7% and 15%, respectively).

Better level of German language proficiency is more widespread in younger age groups, among people with higher education, among students, among creative and executive professionals, as well as entrepreneurs - in contrast to the pensioners, the unemployed, blue-collar workers. The knowledge of German is substantially more frequent in the largest cities in contrast to the smallest villages.

As the survey showed, there are three main factors stimulating German language proficiency: 1) the requirement to master the language for the job or for the professional success and promotion; 2) the high-quality foreign language teaching; 3) and the opportunity to learn a foreign language long enough in successive school grades. Most of the respondents argued that the schools they had attended did not teach German.

Overwhelming majority of population believes it is important to speak English (95%) and German (88%). In comparison with other languages English occupies by far the first position and German follows as the second most important. However, the importance of both languages overlaps considerably: many respondents think that people in Slovakia should speak both German and English. Also, other findings point out that English and German go side by side.

Different importance attributed to each language is also reflected in responses to a hypothetical question, what language the respondents would like to learn, respectively to improve in. Again, the first place goes to English, the second place to German and only then follows the rest of languages. When asked, which language should parents choose for their children who are just starting elementary education, most respondents named English on the first place and German on the second place.

Up to three quarters of respondents thought that the teaching of foreign languages should start as soon as possible - in preschool or early elementary school grades.

People in Slovakia believe that the knowledge of German is important because of the prominent position of German culture and science; of Germany as an important economic partner of Slovakia, and because of the attractiveness of German-speaking countries as tourist destinations.

The poll was conducted shortly before the opening of labor markets in Germany and Austria vast majority of respondents believe that people who speak German have the best chance on the labor market in German-speaking countries have people who speak German.

Selected media reactions:

KNIŽNÁ REVUE: Cudzie jazyky očami sociológov
topky.sk: Slováci sa dohovoria hlavne rusky, nemecky a anglicky
webnoviny.sk: Slováci najčastejšie hovoria po rusky, najlepšie po anglicky
s24.sk: Slováci najčastejšie hovoria po rusky, najlepšie po anglicky
pluska.sk: Najviac nám "vonia" ruština
udalosti.noviny.sk: Najčastejšie hovoríme po rusky, najlepšie po anglicky
fuu.sk: Slováci najčastejšie hovoria po rusky, najlepšie po anglicky
cas.sk: Je to pravda? Tretina Slovákov dokáže hovoriť 2 svetovými jazykmi
sme.sk: IVO:Slováci najčastejšie hovoria po rusky, no najlepšie po anglicky

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