Zut alors, we're the language dunces of Europe

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The first major study of the foreign language skills of Europe's teenagers confirmed what we all feared yesterday – we are the language dunces of the Continent. The survey of 16 nations – by the European Commission – revealed England was bottom in the rankings on reading, writing and listening.

In addition, only nine per cent of 14- and 15-year-olds can hold a conversation in French. This compares with an average across Europe of 42 per cent.

Top for language skills were Sweden, Malta and the Netherlands followed by Estonia, Slovenia and Croatia.

"For England to lie at the bottom of a league of language competence is economically and socially dangerous," said Nick Gibb, the Schools minister.