http://ec.europa.eu/languages/eslc/images/eslc-final-report_en.pngThe European Survey on Language Competences is a major initiative by the European Commission to support the development of language learning policies across Europe. Deutsch. Español. Français. Italiano.
Final Report 

Findings from the first European Survey on Language Competences are presented in the Final Report and its methodology is described in the Technical Report.     
* Final Report
* Technical Report.
* Other Documents and Reports.
6.2 The effect of a basis for lifelong learning of foreign languages - pp.73-76
6.2.1 Early language learning

Early language learning is one of the issues highlighted in recent policy documents which the EU is planning to work on in the immediate future (European Commission 2008). Starting foreign language education at an earlier age usually coincides with an increased duration of foreign language education and an increased total teaching time for foreign language education. Foreign language teaching time and onset may vary between individual students because the target language may be a curricular option, changes of school and/or programmes may have occurred and the national curriculum may have changed during the educational career of students. Therefore, we measured the student-level effect of onset of foreign language learning and the time spent weekly on target language learning (lessons and homework). The index ‘Onset of foreign language teaching’ represents the earliest international grade in which students say they were taught one or more foreign languages.
For the majority of educational systems, languages and skills, the effect of ‘Onset of foreign language teaching’ is negative, which means that an earlier onset of foreign language teaching means a higher score on the language tests. This is even truer for Writing - for which the majority of the negative effects are significant - than for Reading and Listening. That some effects are not significant might be due to the fact that in some educational systems the variance of this index is small, which means that almost all students in an educational system had the same onset of foreign language teaching. In five educational systems the majority of the population has been taught foreign languages from grade 1 or before grade 1: the German Community of Belgium, Croatia, Malta, Poland and Spain. Educational systems that have a relatively late onset of foreign language learning (international grade 5) are the French and Flemish Communities of Belgium, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.
The index ‘Target language lesson time a week’ represents the lesson time students say they have for the target language per week. This index has been calculated on the basis of the reported number of lesson periods a week and the average duration of a lesson period for the target language. For the majority of educational systems, languages and skills, the effect of ‘Target language lesson time a week’ is positive, although less than a half of the positive effects are significant. However, overall more lesson time for the target language per week means a higher score on the language tests, at least for Reading and Listening. For Writing several effects are even significantly negative, meaning that more lesson time goes with lower scores for Writing. However, also for Writing we found more significant effects that are positive than negative. Six educational systems have on average more than three hours of lesson time per week for target language: the French Community of Belgium (second target language), the German Community of Belgium (first target language), Spain (first target language), France (both target languages), Malta (first target language) and Portugal (first target language).
The index ‘Target language learning time a week for tests’ represents the amount of time students say they spend for target language per week learning for tests and assignments. Likewise, the index ‘Target language learning time a week for homework’ represents the amount of time students say they spend per week on target language learning for homework. ‘Target language learning time a week for tests’ shows mixed effects, although the majority of the effects are negative; less than half of these negative effects are significant. For Writing several effects are even significantly positive, meaning that more learning time spent on preparing for tests is related to higher scores for Writing. However, overall more time spent on preparing for target language tests is related to a lower score on the language tests. ‘Target language learning time a week for homework’ shows the same mixed effects as ‘Target language learning time for tests’. Overall, for Reading and Listening, more time spent on homework for the target language is related to a lower score on the language tests. For Writing, effects are about equally often positive as negative.
The mixed effects of ‘Target language learning time for tests’ and ‘Target language learning time for homework’ might be explained by two effects coming together. Students who think learning the language is easy have to spend less time preparing for tests and making homework in order to have the same results than students who have difficulty with learning the language. At the same time, spending more time on preparing for tests and homework if a student needs the preparation helps the student to gain better results.
6.2.2 Diversity and order of foreign languages offered
In the Action Plan 2004-2006 (2003:8) it is stated that “Member states agree that pupils should master at least two foreign languages …”. Research has shown that the existing knowledge of other languages can positively affect the learning of a new language. Pupils will use the skills and knowledge of known languages that are most similar to the language to be learned (Cenoz, Hufeisen and Jessner 2001).
As is the case with the first policy issue (Early language learning), the diversity of foreign language supply depends to a varying extent on the national curriculum, the school curriculum and the choice of the individual student. More than two thirds of the effects of the number of foreign and ancient languages on offer in a school on the school averages of the language test scores are positive, which means that the more foreign and ancient languages a school has on offer, the higher the average scores on the language tests. However, less than one third of the effects are significantly positive. The effects are strongest for Writing. Educational systems where schools on average offer four or more languages are the German Community of Belgium, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands (second target language). Croatia and Poland have a mean lower than 2.5 foreign and ancient languages on offer in the schools.
The index ‘Number of ancient languages learned’ represents the number of ancient languages that students reported having learned in primary and/or secondary education. For five educational systems this index has no variance (none of the students in the research population in these educational systems reported that they learned ancient languages). These educational systems are Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden. This means that this index has been included in the regressions for ten educational systems only. For the majority of educational systems, languages and skills, the effect of ‘Number of ancient languages learned’ is positive, although some negative effects have been found as well. Overall, more ancient languages learned is related to a higher score on the language tests. Educational systems in which a substantial proportion of the students have learned at least one ancient language are Greece, the three communities of Belgium, France, Spain and the Netherlands. The index ‘Number of modern foreign languages learned’ represents the mean number of foreign languages that the students learn or have learned in primary and/or secondary education, including the target language.
For the majority of educational systems, languages and skills, the effect of ‘Number of modern foreign languages learned’ is positive, which means that more modern foreign languages learned means a higher score on the language tests. This is even more true for Writing and Reading for which more positive effects are significant than for Listening.
In four educational systems the mean number of modern foreign languages learned is 2.2 or more for both target language populations: Estonia, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands. In addition, in five educational systems the mean number of modern foreign languages learned is 2.2 or more for the second target language population: the Flemish and German Communities of Belgium, Bulgaria, France and Sweden. Students in the first target language population in the Flemish and German Communities of Belgium and Portugal have relatively low means (approximately 1.5).