The EF English Proficiency Index is a yearly report card on the English proficiency level of adults across the globe produced by EF, a private education company. Because it is based on the scores of online tests (during 2014, for this report) taken by 910,000 adult and 70 countries, it does not reflect the entire population of the country.
Though the average level of adult English proficiency has risen, surprisingly, not all countries are improving and some are even getting worse. The research also indicates that higher English language proficiency correlates with higher income and a better quality of life. With just a few exceptions, women have stronger English language skills than men in all countries surveyed.
The results, by region:
Middle East and North Africa
The downward trend in English language proficiency was seen in the Middle East and North Africa. The United Arab Emirates – perhaps because of the large multinational workforce – Yemen and Morocco scored highest in the region, with Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Libya at the bottom of the ranking. Only the UAE earned a “low” score (50.87); the rest earned a “very low”, with Libya trailing with a score of 37.86.
The level of English language proficiency in Asia varies widely from very high proficiency to very low proficiency. Singapore (61.08), Malaysia and India have the region’s highest proficiency scores. Former British colonies, these countries have a long tradition of using English, especially in higher education institutions. Though China’s trend continues to be positive (49.41), it fell 10 places compared to last year partly due to the addition of three countries, but also because seven Latin American countries have shown more improvement than China. Thailand, Mongolia and Cambodia (39.15) scored the lowest.
While the level of English language proficiency in Europe also varies from very high to very low, with only four exceptions – France, Russia (both low), Turkey and Azerbaijan (both very low) – proficiency scores vary from moderate to very high, with the Nordic countries of Sweden (70.94), Netherlands and Denmark at the top of the list, hardly surprising, given their strong investment in education and the similarity between the structures of their languages and that of English. France is the only country in Western Europe to score very low in English language proficiency. Not only is it behind in comparison to its geographical neighbors, it also ranks below the less-developed countries Indonesia, Ukraine and Peru. The report mentioned a possible “cultural version” to English as the cause. Turkey is the only European country to fall in the ranking since the 2012 report.
While the overall adult English proficiency level is still low, Latin America has shown slow improvement over the last eight years, chiefly among young people. Argentina (60.26) is the only Latin American country to score in the “high proficiency” range, and it is followed by Dominican Republic and Peru, while Colombia, Venezuela and El Salvador (45.52) are at the bottom of the ranking.