Whether you'd like to order your pizza in Italian when in Rome, or just want to understand the locals in a strange country, speaking a foreign language is fun.
Speaking several languages is normal for many people around Europe. Bilingualism or even trilingualism makes life a lot easier in the European Union and travelling a lot more fun. People who know more than one language are able take full advantage of European citizenship, open borders and various international employment opportunities.
The European Commission wants everyone in the Union to share these benefits and has set the promotion of foreign language proficiency as a primary goal in education guidelines. In the future, all school children in the EU will be able to converse in three European languages: their mother tongue plus two others.
Germany is doing its bit to make that happen. In many of the federal states, foreign language instruction begins in the primary grades. By the time children are 12, they are already beginning to learn their second foreign language, and upon graduation from high school, they have had instruction in at least three different languages.
Compared to France and the UK, Germany is doing a lot to encourage foreign language learning in its schools. When compared to the smaller neighbouring countries, however, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg, where nearly the entire population speaks a foreign language, Germany still has a long way to go.