Language preferences of EU internet users

A survey conducted by the Gallup Organization examines the opinions of internet users in 27 EU member states on the use of different languages on the web.

The survey carried out in January and February 2011 on behalf of the EU's Directorate-General Information Society and Media examined the opinions of more than 13,000 internet users in all 27 EU member states about the use of different languages on the internet.

Interviewees were asked about their language preferences when using the internet.   55% of respondents said they used at least one language other than their own to read or watch content on the web.  35% used another language when posting comments or sending messages.

In 23 member states at least half of the respondents reported they used a language other than their own to read or watch content.  This ranged from 50% in Hungary to between 90-93% in Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia.  (The four countries where the majority of users reported using only their own language for these purposes were the Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy and the UK.)

English was the most frequently used 'second' language by far, mentioned by 48% of respondents.  Spanish, German and French were the next most popular languages.  In the UK and Ireland, where not many Internet users mentioned using a second language, French was the most commonly used foreign language for reading (9%) or viewing (7%) online content.

Digital Agenda for Europe

When it comes to the language of choice for respondents, 9 out of 10 said they would always choose a website in their own language if it were available.  However, the survey reveals that varying language skills meant that not everyone has equal advantage when it comes to accessing quality content online.  44% of respondents felt that they were not able to access interesting information because the website was in a language they could not understand.  88% of respondents felt that all websites produced in their country should be available in the country's official language(s).

A key objective of the EU's Digital Agenda for Europe is to ensure increased access to information across the member states.  The Commission currently manages a number of research projects that are focused on language technologies that can help users access information in other languages.

The full survey, including detailed country-by-country analysis, is available here.