Fecha de publicación: 05/08/2020

The first Telephone Language Survey (ETI) also showed that two-thirds of people between the ages of 15 and 60 speaks at least one language other than Spanish.

Uruguay is a country characterized by its highly competitive human resources thanks to the combination of factors such as high basic education - technical and university - and the flexibility of its workers to adapt to new processes or technologies. 

It has the highest literacy rate in Latin America, reaching 98% of the population, and education is public and free from kindergarten to university. It was also the first country in the world to provide free laptops to all students and teachers in public schools and has a population with a high command of languages.  

According to the Telephone Language Survey (ETI), which was carried out for the first time and provided a clear picture of the extent of foreign language use in the country, two-thirds of people aged between 15 and 60 in urban areas of Uruguay have knowledge of a language other than Spanish.  35.1% of the reference population stated that they had knowledge of one language, 21.3 % claims to have knowledge of two, and 9.4% says to speak three or more.

The study, an initiative of the investment and export agency Uruguay XXI, was conducted by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) between late 2018 and early 2019. The survey was conducted among 4,029 people aged 15 to 60 in urban areas with 5,000 or more inhabitants. 

The survey also shows that more than 80% of young people have knowledge of at least one language in addition to Spanish, while in the 50-60 age group the percentage is just over 50%. However, the proportion of people who have knowledge of more than two languages increases with age. 

56% of the reference population has knowledge of English, being the most widespread language, followed by Portuguese which reaches 29.7% and by French and Italian which reach 10%. 

Mandarin and German are also spoken in the country with estimates of 0.2% and 1.6% respectively. There is also knowledge of Japanese, Hebrew, Catalan, Greek, Armenian, Swahili, and Turkish, which together represent less than 2% of the reference population. 

English is the most widespread foreign language in Uruguay 

The proportion of people who have knowledge of English exceeds 50% from a full basic level of education and reaches 89.8% among those who have completed university education. About 40% of people who know English use it in their work and studies and about 80% use it in entertainment activities. 

81% of the respondents learned the language during their time in formal education and 40% in language study centers. However, the source of knowledge that provides the best-perceived level is the experience of living abroad. 

The departments where the knowledge of the language is more deployed are Montevideo, Paysandú, and Río Negro. 

Portuguese, the second most popular language 

The results of the survey showed that 29.7% of the reference population has knowledge of Portuguese.

A significant proportion of respondents acquired Portuguese language skills by living or having lived in the departments bordering Brazil. Frequent or sporadic use of the language at work is around 30%. 

The main results and microdata can be accessed here in open format.

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