Warsaw, Poland – Mastering the English language is as important as it has ever been. So what are the best and worst countries in the world in terms of English proficiency? How does Central Europe compare?
Poles most proficient in English in Central Europe, Czechs improving rapidly
According to the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), a ranking of 88 countries based on their population’s proficiency in English language, Poland was the best performing country in Central Europe.
The data gathered by educational firm EF Education First is based on over 1.3 million test takers who took the EF Standard English Test (EF SET).
Ranked 13th worldwide, Poland is ahead of its three Visegrad neighbours: the Czech Republic (20th worldwide), Hungary (21st) and Slovakia (24th) are nonetheless all positioned within the “high” proficiency category, the second best in the index.
Although trailing slightly behind their Polish counterparts, Czechs’ English skills appear to be improving, rapidly: the Czech Republic reported the biggest improvement among European countries compared to last year’s ranking, with the average test scores increasing by over 2 points in one year.
Moreover, Prague topped the city English proficiency ranking for Central Europe (and 10th worldwide), right ahead of Budapest (11th) and Warsaw (14th). Amsterdam, Stockholm and New Delhi are ranked as the three most English-friendly and proficient cities in the world.
In Central Europe, women usually score better than men, in line with a global trend identified by the authors of the study. “Research into how boys and girls learn foreign languages has shown that female students are more motivated, use a wider variety of strategies to retain new information, and are more willing to make mistakes”.
Moreover, young people between 18 and 30 years old reported higher proficiency levels than older generations in almost all countries taken into account.
Other CEE countries that performed fairly well in the ranking are Romania (16th worldwide), Croatia (17th), Serbia (18th), Bulgaria (25th) and Lithuania (26th).
Sweden ranked best country in the world for English skills, France worst in the EU
According to the 2019 edition of the EF EPI, the (non-native English speaking) country with the best English skills in the world is Sweden, followed by the Netherlands, Singapore, Norway and Denmark.
The rest of the top 10 most proficient nations is also largely dominated by European countries: South Africa (6th), Luxembourg (7th), Finland (8th), Slovenia (9th) and Germany (10th).
Among EU countries, French speakers were ranked last (and 35th worldwide), along with Latin-language Italian and Spanish counterparts.
At the last spot, Libya stands out as the worst English-speaking country in the world, alongside Iraq, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Algeria and Kazakhstan.