Results of our studies


Knowing foreign languages is necessary and important, according to 63%; however, only 25% of respondents are going to learn them within a year.

MOSCOW, September 30, 2019. Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) presents the findings of a survey devoted to International Translation Day. What do Russians think about studying foreign languages? How important is it? What languages and ways to study them are popular among Russians?

You cannot go without a foreign language?

According to the majority of respondents (63%), foreign languages are essential in today’s world. This stance is often shared by inhabitants of Moscow, St Petersburg (75%), women (69%), respondents with higher or incomplete higher education diplomas (66%), as well as those aged 60 and over (71%).


A list of the key advantages of knowing a foreign language has not greatly changed over five years. However, more Russians started to realize those advantages. Today 36% of Russians say that the biggest perk of knowing a foreign languages is the ability to talk to foreigners (vs 28% in 2014). Similarly, the share of those who consider that foreign languages increase the chances of travelling abroad has considerably grown (16% in 2014 and 34% in 2018). Much more Russians also see benefits for work (22% in 2014 and 33% in 2019).


English is the most useful and important (93%) among all other languages people learn. However, in today’s world it is also essential to speak Chinese (48%) or German (32%). Other important languages are French (21%) and Spanish (9%).


Russians’ settings differ substantially from the actual situation in terms of language knowledge. Russians, to a certain extent, speak English (63%), German (45%) and French (16%). However only 5% can confidently say that they are fluent in English; 1%, in German


As to English language, it is spoken predominantly by those Russians whose age does not exceed 45 years. Fluent speakers are mainly respondents aged 18-24 (15%). Reading, translating and communicating in English are mastered by the 18-24-year-olds (51%), the 25-34-years-olds and the 35-44-year-olds (42%).

In addition, 28% of Russians note that they have certain knowledge of a foreign language not presented in the list. Ukrainian is the most popular among such languages (22% can speak it, to a certain extent); mainly Russians aged 60+ (33%)).

Foreign language in everyday life

Russians who can, to some extent, speak another language tend to use it to read instruction manuals or foreign product labels (42%). Thirty-eight percent of Russians also need it to read websites (38%). Twenty-seven percent mention tourism or studies. On the whole, foreign language is largely used by Russians aged 18-24, living in Moscow or St Petersburg.


Russians tend to learn foreign languages on their own – they use self-study books and various learning materials (25% of those who have mastered at least one foreign language to a certain extent). Every fifth use mobile programs and applications or online resources (20%). Nineteen percent went to language schools; 18% practiced language with natives; 16% attended extra courses at universities; a further 14% took private lessons.

Russian plans to study foreign languages  

Nevertheless, 74% of Russians are not going to study any foreign language or to improve the knowledge of the language within a year: mainly respondents aged 45-59 (79%) and 60+ (89%). The key reason (43%) behind that is that they do not need it or doubt that they will ever use it. Almost every fourth points to age or poor memory (23%).


At the same time, 26% of Russians are going to study a new foreign language or to improve the knowledge of the language they know. Nine percent would like to start learning from scratch; the most popular language is English (38%). This is followed by Chinese and Spanish (11%), and German (10%). Of those who would continue mastering the language (17%), an overwhelming majority mention English (77%). A further 6% point to German; 3% (for each), Spanish and French.

Those who would like to start or continue learning most often say they will do it on their own using online resources (40%) or self-study materials (33%). Every fourth will watch movies in their original language (24%); every fifth will take private lessons (20%) or communicate with natives in everyday life. Only 8% are going to practice language abroad.  

VCIOM-Sputnik survey was conducted on September 26, 2019. The survey involved 1,600 Russians aged 18 and over. The survey was telephone-based and carried out using stratified dual-frame random sample based on a complete list of landline and mobile phone numbers operating in Russia. The data were weighted according to selection probability and social and demographic characteristics. The margin of error at a 95% confidence level does not exceed 2.5%. In addition to sampling error, minor changes in question wording and different circumstances arising during the fieldwork can introduce bias into the survey.


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