English is commonly accepted as the world’s international language, and it is increasingly defined as a basic skill required of every student in every education system. There are concerns rising whether to teach English at school, some people are even afraid that overuse of English as a second language will threaten their national identity.

Repeat after me: 'How do you do?'

Repeat after me: ‘How do you do?’

The Education First scientists decided to check, which countries master at English and what kind of differences there are. Their report is constructed each year from results on a set of English tests completed by hundreds of thousands of adults around the world. The data for this fifth edition was calculated using results from 910,000 test takers who completed two different tests. Both include grammar, vocabulary, reading, and listening sections.

The participants were male and female adult language learners from a wide range of ages. Female respondents comprised 49.7% of the overall sample, and the median age of adult respondents was 28 years. 98.5% of adult respondents were under the age of 60. Male respondents tended to be slightly older, with a median age two years greater than that of female respondents. Only countries with a minimum of 400 test takers were included in the index. 70 countries and territories were included. Poland is ranked among the top 10.

Top 10 countries mastery of English

Country EF English Proficiency Index
Sweden 70.94
Netherlands 70.58
Denmark 70.05
Norway 67.83
Finland 65.32
Slovenia 64.97
Estonia 63.73
Luxembourg 63.45
Poland 62.95
Austria 61.97

General results:

  • the average level of adult English proficiency in the world has risen slightly since last year
  • better English, higher income and quality of life
  • women have stronger English skills than men
  • English proficiency levels are highest among young adults aged 18-20
  • Western Europe has stronger English proficiency than other parts of the continent
  • adults in Northern Europe have exceptionally good English skills compared to other non-native English speakers
  • the German-speaking countries of Central Europe have far higher English proficiency levels in the 18-20 age cohort than in other age groups
  • several European countries with high levels of English proficiency have more than one official language
  • weakness on the edges – very large countries with decentralised education systems and significant linguistic diversity such as Russia and Ukraine have English levels proficiency levels below European averages
  • college-aged European adults have the best proficiency levels

With every year, organisations, companies and the whole education system change and adapt themselves to a society in which English has become a modern Latin. Nowadays, the ability to communicate in English is a requirement in sectors and positions that were monolingual even a decade ago.
A few strategies for teaching English have been established, such as: focusing on practical communication skills, developing effective English assessment tools and considering English within the framework of other educational reforms.

Economically speaking, English is here to stay, at least for the next several decades. If we cannot change the reality, we need to adapt to it. Although it takes a great deal of effort, we need to do our best to reduce the differences.

The tool used for the research was The EF English Proficiency Index.

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