European Survey on Language Competences

England initial findings report

ESLC is a European Commission research project, providing information about foreign language learning in Europe. It assesses the language proficiency of students at the end of Key Stage 4 in 14 European countries, and allows researchers to collect extensive background information about foreign language teaching, which can be used to make comparisons between participating countries. The implications of the findings from this survey will be taken into account in formulating national policy.


In 2002 the European Council called for further action to 'improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least 2 foreign languages from a very early age', and for the 'establishment of the linguistic competence indicator'. This decision arose from the current lack of data on the actual language skills of pupils and the need for reliable data to measure the progress towards this new objective.

In response to this call the European Commission established the European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC). The ESLC is the first survey of its type and aims to be a key tool for European governments to use in developing language-learning policies. It will help governments to understand existing levels of second language proficiency and how those levels compare to other countries. It will also provide information on how language proficiency relates to demographic, social, economic and educational variables. Information in the survey can then be used to influence policy and improve national standards.

The survey is run internationally by SurveyLang, this is an international consortium made up of eight organisations, each one a leader in its own area of expertise. The consortium brings together knowledge and experience in the fields of language assessment, test development, sampling and data collection, as well as in educational measurement, cognitive psychology, research design, pscyhometrics, and data analysis.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has been commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to run ESLC in England.

The ESLC survey

The survey will compare foreign language learning for pupils in the final year of lower secondary education (for England this is at the end of Key Stage 4) using the scales of the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR). It will focus on the two most popular foreign languages studied in each of the participating countries, which according to the most recent Eurostat data are: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. In England the survey will test French and German.

Student's proficiency in listening, reading and writing will be assessed using tasks that will:

 The ESLC Main Study will take place in October and November 2011.

What will schools need to do?

Schools sampled to take part in the Main Study for ESLC will need to:

What will happen to the results in England?

Relevant links

The European Survey on Language Competences -

England initial findings report