author={Victor Ginsburgh and Jacques Melitz and Farid Toubal},
title={Foreign Language Learning: An Econometric Analysis},
type={Working Papers},
abstract={The paper is devoted to an econometric analysis of learning foreign languages in all parts of the world. Our sample covers 193 countries and 13 important languages. Five factors significantly explain learning: the world population of native speakers of the home language, literacy, the world population of speakers of the target language, trade with foreign speakers of the target language, and the linguistic distance between the home language and the target language. All five factors affect the broad decision to learn but the last three also point to the choice of the particular language to learn. The world population of speakers of the native language discourages learning in general while literacy promotes it in general. Instead, the world population of speakers of a specific target language and trade with speakers of the specific language prompts learning of that language while the linguistic distance between the home and the foreign language discourages learning of that language. Trade may well deserve special emphasis, not only for its quantitative effect, but also because its direction can change faster and by a larger order of magnitude than the other factors. Controlling for individual acquired languages, including English, is of no particular importance. },
keywords={language learning ; language and trade ; English as a global language ; linguistic distance}