This week saw the beginning of Euro 2012 and as a result all of the necessary paraphernalia that goes along with a major football tournament. Whilst this year’s competition sadly lacks the presence of Paul, the psychic Anglo-German octopus who sadly died in 2010 after making several highly accurate predictions, we have gained Emiliano from Milano, the unexpected Italian pundit who joined Adrian Chiles for a bit of football-related chit-chat before Italy’s first game. Competitions such as these do encourage a bit of friendly competition and as this week it was announced that language learning will now be compulsory from the age of 7 in Britain, it seems as good a time as any to see how we fare when pitted against our European neighbours.
Whilst Emiliano, Alan Hansen and several other great footballing pundits have predicted a German victory at the Euro’s this year, they are far from the top of the table when it comes to language uptake with pollsters placing the average number of languages spoken by German citizens at 0.6. This might seem surprising for many who have met Germans with flawless English and normally a couple of other languages to boot, but there is still a huge tranche of the population that have yet to acquire their second tongue.
In fact, for second language acquisition even Britain comes out on top with a solid score of an average of 1 additional language. Whilst this figure might be bolstered by our neighbours and friends (for now at least) in Scotland, this figures would place us in second place in Group D in front of France with 0.4 and the Ukraine with 0.9. Sweden however clinches the top spot with a whopping average 1.2 languages spoken each.
Surprisingly, the Ukraine, much criticised in recent weeks, polls ahead of Poland for language acquisition with another solid 1 over Poland’s 0.8. Even more surprising perhaps is the fact that, based on language stats alone, the winners of the Euro 2012 Language Tournament would be Luxembourg with an amazing 1.8. This, I am sure, will come as comfort to Luxembourgish competitive types who of course will not be seeing their national team compete in the football tournament.
But below, based on the group stages of the competition as laid out by FIFA, we have worked out who should win the tournament based on their second language skills. So as England fans sip cold, damp beer in even colder, damper beer gardens across the country and German expectations continue to grow, don’t forget that no matter what the result we win on second language acquisition. Not so much “Funf-Eins” as “Eins – Null punkt Sechs”.