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Who are the masters of English?

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Article
Published 4 weeks ago

Getting by with your native language is possible, but if you want to obtain a first-class education, thrive in business, or international relations, or simply expand your horizons, English language is your best bet. English serves the world’s need to connect and exchange information in a universal language, which is one of globalisation’s and international mobility’s most important tools. Thus, EF has measured and created a quality index of the English proficiency of adults from 80 countries where English isn’t the native language, and Expat.com looks into the results.

10 most proficient countries in English

The eight countries in the top ten are European, with the Netherlands rightfully taking the first place as the most proficient country in the English language. There are a few explanations for the Netherlands’ outperformance, but the high national income, mass access to the internet, average years of studying, and substantial funds spent on education, are definitely the key factors. Following the Netherlands are Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Singapore, Finland, Luxembourg, South Africa, Germany, and Austria. It comes as no surprise to see the Northern Europeans taking the lead in English competency, considering how early they begin to study English (primary school), the interactive teaching methods they use, the fact that they are avid travellers, and are exposed to English via tv programs, the internet, etc..

Latin America: A unique phenomenon

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Latin American countries are characterised by relative homogeneity when it comes to English language proficiency. For example,  Argentina — the region’s most proficient country — is only ten points higher than El Salvador, which is the least proficient country in Latin America. But why we see this happening in Latin America? Countries which are at the bottom of the proficiency list are continuously working their way up. As a result, they catch up with their more proficient neighbours, who, on the other hand, are stagnant. The ground in Latin America is set for English proficiency progress, with literacy among adults at above 90% and public investment on education being on the rise. However, the Latin America of 2017 is below the global average. The reason lies in the facts that teachers are underpaid, unmotivated, and often they teach English classes to overcrowded classrooms, without any previous experience in English.

Asia: The widest gap in the world

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Asia comes second (after Europe) with the highest average English proficiency in the world among adults. However, there’s a big (30 points) internal gap between the highest (Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines) and the lowest (Laos, Cambodia, Mongolia) scoring countries. Middle-scoring countries such as Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, need to change the teaching methods in order to improve their English proficiency. For example, the education systems of these countries are very much focused on memorization and accuracy rather than critical thinking, communication, and practice — and no matter how much these systems seem to be effective for other subjects, they aren’t as much for English.

Africa: The exception of South Africa

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Africa has space for general improvement when it comes to literacy, access to education in rural areas, and unemployment before it focuses on English education. Africa’s young population (close to 50% of the population is under 15 years old) is disheartened due to lack of job opportunities, and most often young people don’t find any motive in pursuing any type of education — not even secondary. At the same time, teachers are overworked due to jam-packed classrooms, and they lack the energy to inspire and provoke their students. However, South Africa is on the eighth place of the world’s most proficient countries in English, with some of its most prestigious higher education institutions declaring English as their official language (alongside or in front of the Afrikaans).

The Middle East: The least proficient region

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The English proficiency in eight out of the nine ranked Middle Eastern countries is very low with the UAE being the most proficient country and Iraq the least proficient. There are a few reasons for the Middle East’s lousy performance, including the low-quality public education, regular periods of social and political conflict and war, a stagnant public sector, and an educated, tech-oriented youth.

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