Warsaw, Poland – According to the latest report by EF Education First, an international education company, Poles rank among the best non-native English speakers in Europe. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are not too far behind.
Unsurprinsingly, the report finds that Northern Europeans are the most fluent, with the Netherlands topping the rankings, followed by Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
Of the Eurozone’s four largest economies, only Germany speaks English well, while France, Spain, and Italy lag behind nearly every other member state.
First published in 2011, the EF English Proficiency Index (EPI) is an attempt to rank countries by the average level of English language skills and is based on the results of a free online test created by EF Education First.
For this year’s edition, there were 2.3 million test takers worldwide, which is a 77% increase over last year’s.
The Economist warns, however, that the results are not “comprehensive” nor are they “representative”, since “only people with an internet connection and time and willingness to take a test are included in the sample”, which means the results are biased towards richer countries interested in English.
Central Europe’s most fluent English speakers
Scoring 63.76 on English Proficiency Index, Poles nevertheless rank among Europe’s most fluent non-native speakers with a “Very High Proficiency”. This should mean, for instance, that Poles should be able to perform more advanced tasks in English, such as using nuanced and appropriate language in social situations, reading advanced texts with ease, and even negotiating a contract with a native English speaker.
Warsaw is the city who scored the highest (64.68) in the country, followed by Kraków (64.22), Wrocław (63.70), Gdańsk (62.75) and Poznań (62.70).
Just like last year, Poland was the best performing country in Central Europe, while all four countries scored higher than the European average of 56.71.
Hungarians (61.86), Czechs (59.30) and Slovaks (58.82) all find themselves in the second tier of the ranking with a “High Proficiency”, meaning they should at least be able to make a presentation at work, understand TV shows and read the newspaper in English.
Just like Warsaw, Budapest (64.27) scored quite high, while Bratislava (61.88) and Prague (61.29) lag further behind.
Highest increase but biggest gender gap in Hungary
Interestingly, Hungarians have improved significantly since last year (+2.35) while Poles (+1.31) and Slovaks (+0.71) both only show a slight increase in their level of English. Czechs, on the other hand, are the only ones whose overall score has slightly decreased since last year (-0.69).
Generally speaking, women outscored men in Europe, but this gap has narrowed significantly, from three points last year to less than one point this year. The gender gap remains the biggest in Hungary, where women (63.10) significantly outperformed men (59.98), while men outperformed women by significant margins in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Poland has one of the smallest gender gap when it comes to English skills, according to the index (0.03).
The EF study found that English proficiency is positively correlated with several key measures of innovation, including public investment in research and development, as well as a range of indicators of human and economic development. As English proficiency broadens horizons, lowers barriers, and speeds information exchange, the incentives to learn English have never been greater, claims the report.