The overwhelming majority of young Romanians want to learn a foreign language. A survey conducted by Eurostat in 2018 placed Romania second in Europe in this regard with almost 9 out of 10 young Romanians answering that they want to learn a foreign language.
The desire to learn a foreign language in Romania is not limited to children and young people. Two out of three Romanian employees would like to learn a foreign language or improve their existing level in order to grow professionally, according to a study published in 2017.
But what are the most sought-after foreign languages in Romania? And is learning them accessible in the public Romanian educational system?
Our team at ClubulCopiilor.ro has analyzed Google Adwords data, the most popular search engine in Romania, to determine the most sought-after foreign languages in Romania. More specifically, we analyzed the local volume of searches in Google for keywords such as „learn English, learn French, English courses, English classes etc.”. for a period of 12 months (April 2022 through March 2023). We then ranked the foreign languages according to the total amount of searches for each language.
The results of our analysis show that English is by far the most sought-after foreign language in Romania, with 4x times more searches than German, which ranks second, and 8x times more searches than French.
The fact that Romania is an important member of La Francophonie is not reflected in the interest Romanians show in learning French, which was only the 5th most popular foreign language in our country.
German is the second most sought-after language among Romanians. Germany is Romania’s main economic partner and knowledge of German is a real advantage in finding a well-paid job in most Romanian cities. Many Romanians have also emigrated and continue to emigrate to German-speaking countries (i.e. Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and this is reflected in the number of searches for German language courses.
Spanish leads the Latin language preferences, followed by Italian and French. And at a significant distance, in 11th place, is Portuguese. The large communities of Romanians in Spain and Italy, as well as the large number of companies from these countries that are active in Romania, support an increased interest for these two languages.
The Japanese mirage is ever-present in Romania, with Japanese being one of the most sought after foreign languages. Unfortunately, apart from a few large cities, learning Japanese in a physical setting is virtually impossible, but the online environment offers many opportunities that did not exist 5 or 10 years ago.
Russian is the clear leader among Slavic languages and continues to rank in the top 10 preferences of Romanians, even though it is a huge distance from the top 3 (there were 23x times more searches for learning English than Russian). Google data also shows that interest in learning Russian has dropped significantly since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Chinese language and its dialects Mandarin, Cantonese, etc. are in ninth place in the preferences of Romanians. Even though China is the world’s second largest economy, Romanians’ interest in learning the language is still low and the trend in searches over the last four years shows no major change.
The Nordic languages are increasingly attractive to Romanians because of the opportunities they offer. Norwegian is the most popular Nordic language, followed by Swedish, Danish and Finnish. Taken together, interest in the Nordic languages is on a par with interest in Russian and Turkish.
Speaking of Turkish, it is in the top 10 preferences of Romanians, higher than Greek, Chinese, or Arabic.
What Foreign Languages Are Studied In Romanian Schools?
English is not only the most sought-after foreign language in Romania, but it is also the language studied in almost all schools in the country. According to a report by Institute National of Statistics 87% of children in Romania study English as their first foreign language.
After English, French is the most widely studied foreign language in Romania – 1.5 million students take French courses in the public education system according to a press release by MAE, Romania’s Foreign Affairs office. But the majority of pupils in Romania study French as a second foreign language (69.6%) and only 10% of them study French as a first foreign language.
In contrast, very few students who want to learn German, Italian or Spanish have the opportunity to do so in a public school. Only 2% of Romanian pupils study German as a first foreign language, and another 9% study German as a second foreign language. Italian and Spanish are studied by only 1% of children in public schools..
The limited opportunity to learn German is reflected in the very low number of German teachers in Romania – there are only 982, compared to 6030 French teachers, according to data released by the Ministry of Education in June 2023, at the request of our team.
It is a reality often faced by children who want to study German in the public education system – the lack of teachers. Moreover, there is also a problem of continuity: some pupils who manage to learn German in secondary school find that there is no German teacher at the high school that they are attending.
There is little chance that this situation will change in the near future. Working as a German teacher in Romanian schools is no longer a very attractive proposal to the younger generation and this is reflected in the low number of students who train to become German language teachers at the local universities.
At the country’s largest university, Babeș-Bolyai in Cluj-Napoca, only 21 of the 28 admission places for the German Language and Literature major were filled following the 2022 admission sessions, according to a UBB representative. The majority of Romanian German-speaking students who applied at Babyes-Bolyai, opted for the Applied Modern Languages specialization, a line of study that prepares future students for jobs as translators and communication specialists. These latter jobs are generally better paid and are more attractive than German teachers jobs.
An alternative is private schools. Many private schools in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca offer the opportunity to study German, but the costs associated with private education in Romania are beyond the means of many parents.
English and German, the Most Requested Foreign Languages by Local Employers
It is no coincidence that English and German are not only the most sought-after foreign languages in Romania, but they are also the most requested languages by local employers.
A simple search on Ejobs, one of the country’s largest jobs marketplace, shows that there are over 4300 jobs where English is required, 1026 jobs where German is required or is an asset, 510 jobs where Italian is required or is an asset and 363 jobs where French is required or is an asset.
Unfortunately, for most children, learning some of the most popular languages, such as German, Italian or Spanish, is only possible privately and at significant cost.
Situation at Local Level
The local language search follows the same pattern as the national language search. Our team did an analysis of language searches in 9 major counties in the country and in Bucharest and did not find a substantial difference from the national data.
A similar situation is found in Cluj, Timiș, Sibiu counties, Brasov Iași and Bihor where English and German are also the most searched languages, followed by Spanish and Italian (with the same or approximately the same volume of searches).
In Prahova, Dolj and Constanta, English is by far the most popular foreign language. Spanish and German are tied for second place, with Italian and French coming in fourth and fifth.
Google data analysis was conducted in May 2023 and includes Google search volume for keywords like „learn English, learn French, English courses, German classes etc.” for a period of 12 months: April 2022 to March 2023.
The data on the number of German and French teachers was provided by the Ministry of Education and represents the number of teachers employed in the Romanian public education system at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. The total includes teachers employed on long-term contracts and fixed-term employees.
Data on the number of jobs where knowledge of English, German and French is required or advantageous was obtained from the Ejobs.ro portal. We have taken into account job advertisements where knowledge of one of these three languages is required or where the parent company, in the case of multinationals, is based in one of these countries (i.e. Germany, France).
The Romanian version of this article can be found here.