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Dutch overtake Danes to become world's best English speakers

by November 15, 2016 General
European students continue to perform best on English language tests. Photo: Shutterstock

European students continue to perform best on English language tests. Photo: Shutterstock

Adults in the Netherlands are the best non-native English speakers in the world, followed by those in Denmark and Sweden, according to the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) released today by EF Education First. 

Laos, Libya, and Iraq occupy the bottom of the rankings.

“In a volatile global economy, English proficiency is one of the few skills with proven ability to generate opportunities and strengthen employability,” said Minh N. Tran, EF Director of Research. “It takes a great deal of effort and investment to steer a country or company towards a future with an English-speaking workforce. The EF EPI addresses these challenges and prompts global discussions about the best practices of language education.”

Highlights of the sixth edition of the EF EPI include:

  • For the first time, an Asian country, Singapore, is in the highest proficiency band. Malaysia and the Philippines are also in the top 15 countries worldwide.
  • English proficiency in Europe remains the strongest in the world by a wide margin, while countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue to occupy the lowest ranks.
  • Of all the regions surveyed, Latin America is the only region that experienced a decline in English proficiency in the past year.
  • Countries making the most progress in English proficiency include France, Qatar, and Singapore; countries with the steepest declines include Iraq, Japan, and Peru.
  • Young adults aged 18-25 have the strongest English proficiency worldwide, although some countries have markedly different national trends.
  • Women have stronger English skills than men in almost all countries and
    age groups.
  • English proficiency remains a key indicator of economic competitiveness at both the individual and national levels. Higher English proficiency correlates with higher incomes, better quality of life, greater connectivity, and more dynamic business environments.

A companion to the EF EPI, the EF EPI for Companies (EF EPI-c), was also released today. The EF EPI-c is an evaluation of global workforce English skills, surveying 510,000 professionals from 40 countries and 16 industries. The report finds that executives lag behind their employees in English skills, and that countries’ workforce English scores correlate positively with indicators of global innovation, government transparency, and ease of doing business.

Millions of participants took part in this year’s research by completing the EF Standard English Test (EFSET), the world’s first free standardized English test. The EFSET was launched in order to serve the world’s two billion English language learners, who previously lacked a free, high-quality self-assessment tool. The EFSET also provides schools, companies, and governments with convenient, large-scale testing solutions.