Countries That Are Most And Least Proficient In English (2023)

Countries That Are Most And Least Proficient In English (1)

Importance Of The English Language

Of the thousands of languages spoken in the world today, English has become one of the most important. Originally the language of England, it has since spread throughout the world due to the wide reach of the British Empire. Several countries have reported that English is their primary or secondary language. This widespread use has lead to this language becoming the principal method of communication among international businesses, financial institutions, academic research, media outlets, and even the entertainment industry.

The English language is important in bringing the world together. Individuals from different countries, where English is not an official language, may be able to communicate by using this language. Additionally, many important academic works and educational materials are only available in English, particularly information from the field of sciences and engineering. The fact that a significant amount of information may not be available to someone simply because they do not understand the language makes learning English that much more critical.

This article takes a look at which countries, where English is not an official language, have the highest and lowest levels of English proficiency according to the EF English Proficiency Index.

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EF English Proficiency Index

The EF English Proficiency Index was created by EF Education First, an educational company, to measure the English communication skills of adults in countries where English is not an official language. This measurement is determined by a free exam that is administered online to individuals who are interested in knowing their level of English. It is considered a survey and not a controlled research project. Researchers have determined that respondents are likely to be young, urban adults and not a proper sample of the total population. Since it was first made available on the internet in 2012, approximately 1.7 million individuals have taken the exam.

For a country to be included in the results list, at least 400 individuals must have taken the exam. Some trends were noted in the calculations: European countries tend to have the highest proficiency levels, Middle Eastern countries tend to have the lowest proficiency levels, higher proficiency levels in countries with higher gross national income per capita and exports per capita, and women tend to have higher levels of English than men.

Countries With The Highest English Proficiency

As previously mentioned, the countries with the highest English proficiency levels are primarily located in Europe. Of the 7 countries with “Very High Proficiency”, Singapore is the only non-European country listed. The top 7 countries for English proficiency (and their scores) are: the Netherlands (72.16), Denmark (71.15), Sweden (70.81), Norway (68.54), Finland (66.61), Singapore (63.52), and Luxembourg (63.20).

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In the Netherlands, between 90% and 93% of the population reports having English fluency. This country has a long history using this language, which was motivated by its significant trade and commerce relationship with the United Kingdom. Some researchers believe this percentage is so high because the Dutch language shares similarities with English, making it easier to learn. Additionally, the population is relatively small here and rather than using audio dubbing for television and cinema, the industry relies on subtitles instead. This language is particularly common in the city of Amsterdam, where signs, advertisements, and announcements are published in English. English also plays an important role in the educational system of the Netherlands and is required for graduation. Approximately 100 schools teach a bilingual curriculum and the majority of post-graduate degrees are taught in English only.

Singapore, interestingly, is also considered to have a very high level of English proficiency. The English spoken in this country is referred to as Singapore English. This language has been important in Singapore since 1819, when British colonialists established a trading post here. This country was a British colony until 1965, with English serving as the official language of government, administration, and business. Additionally, English plays an important role in bringing the large variety of cultures living here closer together. The population of Singapore speaks a wide variety of first languages, for example, around 42% of the population is foreign-born and come here speaking several different languages. Additionally, people born in Singapore do not share a first language or one common culture. This diversity makes English an important common denominator for shared communication.

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Countries With The Lowest English Proficiency

As previously mentioned, most of the countries with the lowest English proficiency are located in the Middle East. Of the 24 countries with “Very Low Proficiency”, 14 are Middle Eastern. This category also has a number of Latin American and Southeast Asian countries. The bottom 24 countries for English proficiency (and their scores) are: Colombia (48.41), Panama (48.08), Turkey (47.89), Tunisia (47.70), Guatemala (47.64), Kazakhstan (47.42), Egypt (47.32), Thailand (47.21), Azerbaijan (46.90), Sri Lanka (46.58), Qatar (46.57), Venezuela (46.53), Iran (46.38), Jordan (45.85), El Salvador (43.83), Oman (43.44), Kuwait (42.98), Mongolia (42.77), Algeria (41.60), Saudi Arabia (40.91), Cambodia (39.48), Laos (38.45), Libya (37.82), and Iraq (37.65).

Iraq ranks lowest in English proficiency. In this country, Arabic and Kurdish are the official languages. Regional and minority languages include: Syriac-Aramaic, Feyli Lurish, Armenian, Turkish, Turkmen, and Persian. Iraq has a unique history that has not involved extensive trade with Europe or British colonialism. Without these factors, English has not held such an important role in this country. For example, the Ottoman Empire held control of this region during the spread of the British Empire. In fact, Britain held Iraq as a mandate for 15 short years, between 1917 and 1932. Without this outside influence of the English language, the majority of the population has not been exposed and has not needed to learn English in order to be successful. Interestingly, English is considered the primary foreign language in this country.

Among the least proficient in English is El Salvador, a Central American country. This country was a Spanish colony from 1525 until 1821, when the Spanish language was used for government, business, and religious purposes. Today, its official language continues to be Spanish. Like many other countries on the “Very Low Proficiency” list, El Salvador does not have a significant history with the British Empire. Because of this, English has never held an important role in its society. Indigenous languages, such as Nawat and Maya, continue to be used today by a small percentage of the population.

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Countries That Are Most And Least Proficient In English

2016 RankCountry2016 Score2016 Band
1 Netherlands72.16Very High Proficiency
2 Denmark71.15Very High Proficiency
3 Sweden70.81Very High Proficiency
4 Norway68.54Very High Proficiency
5 Finland66.61Very High Proficiency
6 Singapore63.52Very High Proficiency
7 Luxembourg63.20Very High Proficiency
8 Austria62.13High Proficiency
9 Germany61.58High Proficiency
10 Poland61.49High Proficiency
11 Belgium60.90High Proficiency
12 Malaysia60.70High Proficiency
13 Philippines60.33High Proficiency
14 Switzerland60.17High Proficiency
15 Portugal59.68High Proficiency
16 Czech Republic59.09High Proficiency
17 Serbia59.07High Proficiency
18 Hungary58.72High Proficiency
19 Argentina58.40High Proficiency
20 Romania58.14High Proficiency
21 Slovakia57.34Moderate Proficiency
22 India57.30Moderate Proficiency
23 Dominican Republic57.24Moderate Proficiency
24 Bulgaria56.79Moderate Proficiency
25 Spain56.66Moderate Proficiency
26 Bosnia and Herzegovina56.17Moderate Proficiency
27 South Korea54.87Moderate Proficiency
28 Italy54.63Moderate Proficiency
29 France54.33Moderate Proficiency
30 Hong Kong54.29Moderate Proficiency
31 Vietnam54.06Moderate Proficiency
32 Indonesia52.94Moderate Proficiency
33 Taiwan52.82Moderate Proficiency
34 Russia52.32Low Proficiency
35 Japan51.69Low Proficiency
36 Uruguay51.63Low Proficiency
37 Macau51.36Low Proficiency
38 Costa Rica51.35Low Proficiency
39 China50.94Low Proficiency
40 Brazil50.66Low Proficiency
41 Ukraine50.62Low Proficiency
42 Chile50.10Low Proficiency
43 Mexico49.88Low Proficiency
44 Morocco49.86Low Proficiency
45 Peru49.83Low Proficiency
46 United Arab Emirates49.81Low Proficiency
47 Ecuador49.13Low Proficiency
48 Pakistan48.78Low Proficiency
49 Colombia48.41Very Low Proficiency
50 Panama48.08Very Low Proficiency
51 Turkey47.89Very Low Proficiency
52 Tunisia47.70Very Low Proficiency
53 Guatemala47.64Very Low Proficiency
54 Kazakhstan47.42Very Low Proficiency
55 Egypt47.32Very Low Proficiency
56 Thailand47.21Very Low Proficiency
57 Azerbaijan46.90Very Low Proficiency
58 Sri Lanka46.58Very Low Proficiency
59 Qatar46.57Very Low Proficiency
60 Venezuela46.53Very Low Proficiency
61 Iran46.38Very Low Proficiency
62 Jordan45.85Very Low Proficiency
63 El Salvador43.83Very Low Proficiency
64 Oman43.44Very Low Proficiency
65 Kuwait42.98Very Low Proficiency
66 Mongolia42.77Very Low Proficiency
67 Algeria41.60Very Low Proficiency
68 Saudi Arabia40.91Very Low Proficiency
69 Cambodia39.48Very Low Proficiency
70 Laos38.45Very Low Proficiency
71 Libya37.82Very Low Proficiency
72 Iraq37.65Very Low Proficiency


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Which European country speaks the least English? ›

Here are the 10 least English-speaking countries in Europe.
  • Spain. As strange as this may be. ...
  • Italy. Italians consider that being rude if you expect them to know English. ...
  • France. Here's another surprise...or perhaps not? ...
  • Russia. ...
  • Belarus. ...
  • Georgia. ...
  • Ukraine. ...
  • Turkey.

What country has the highest rate of English speakers? ›

It is believed that there are around 230 million native speakers in the United States, making it the largest English-speaking country, while the United Kingdom has approximately 60 million native speakers.

What percent of America is fluent in English? ›

According to the latest census data, over 91% of people in the US speak English very well. 8.2% of people do not speak English “very well”, though this statistic doesn't mean that they are completely non-English speakers.

What are the top 3 states with largest limited English proficient population? ›

About half of LEP individuals resided in three states: California, Texas, and New York. Nearly one in five residents in California was LEP. Approximately 94 percent of LEP individuals resided in metropolitan areas.

What are the big 5 English speaking countries? ›

Five of the largest of these are sometimes described as the "core Anglosphere"; they are the United States of America (with at least 231 million native English speakers), the United Kingdom (60 million), Canada (19 million), Australia (at least 17 million), and New Zealand (4.8 million).

What is the American average English level? ›

The average American reads at the 7th- to 8th-grade level, according to The Literacy Project. Medical information for the public should be written at no higher than an eighth-grade reading level, according to the American Medical Association, National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How many countries are fluent in English? ›

A mammoth list of English speaking countries. English is the official language of 67 different countries and 27 non-sovereign entities around the world. But apart from that, English is also spoken in many countries where it's not an official language.

Where is the cheapest place to live in the world English speaking? ›

Possibly the cheapest English-speaking country to live in is South Africa. Not only can you get by without having to go to language school, but most South African cities also have a high standard of living, similar to Western cities, which will make the transition much easier.

Where in Europe can you live if you only speak English? ›

Scandanavia/Northern Europe

While we have already discussed that Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland are some of the top English speaking countries, we shouldn't forget that Germany and Belgium are very high up the list, with over 62% of the population in Germany being English speakers and 61% in Belgium!

Is English no longer an EU language? ›

English remains an official EU language, despite the United Kingdom having left the EU. It remains an official and working language of the EU institutions as long as it is listed as such in Regulation No 1. English is also one of Ireland's and Malta's official languages.

Which country has the most clear English? ›

The Netherlands has emerged as the nation with the highest English language proficiency, according to the EF English Proficiency Index, with a score of 72.

Why do Scandinavians speak English so well? ›

English is taught in Scandinavian schools from a young age. As soon as children have mastered reading and writing their native tongue, English is introduced.

What country has more English speakers than the US? ›

The United States has 309 million English speakers. India has 1.25 billion English speakers; about 4 times more English speakers than the USA… Thus, India is the answer to the question in the title of this post: Which country has more English speakers than the USA?

How many Mexicans know English? ›

CountryEligible populationTotal English speakers
50 more rows

What state has the most non English speakers? ›

1) California

A whopping 45 percent of California's inhabitants speak a language other than English in the home. California is well-known for its Hispanic population and, just as Spanish is the second most popular language in the US as a whole, it's also the second most-spoken language in the state.

What of Americans don't speak English? ›

In total, almost 66 million people speak a language that is not English at home in the US; that's around 21.6% of the population. Many of these people are bilingual in English and another language.

What is the most dominant language in the U.S. after English? ›

Spanish is now the most popular second language of the country. America is home to the largest population of English speakers in the world, but bilingualism has been on the rise in the country for decades – a trend that shows no signs of letting up.

What percent of the world is fluent in English? ›

What percentage of the world speaks English? Roughly 13% of the world speaks the English language. While less than 5% speaks English natively, the number of people who speak English as a second language make it one of the most widely spoken people in the world.

What state has the most correct English? ›

Alabama ranked Maryland and the surrounding area as having the “most correct” English, which means there's something else going on here.

What percent of Japan speaks English? ›

Well, according to the survey, there are only 30% of people in Japan who speak English. Though Japan is a vast and strong country, it is still behind in English literacy as compared to other countries.

In which countries is English the mother tongue? ›

The "Three Circles" of English

The Inner Circle — The smallest circle, this section includes countries in which English is the native language of the majority of the population: mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and much of Canada.

What English level is considered fluent? ›

Level guide
Anglo-Link rankIELTS
Intermediate4.0 – 5.0
Advanced5.5 – 6.5
Fluent7.0 – 8.0
3 more rows

Is American English harder than British? ›

The American accent is quite simple and easy to talk to . The grammar and the style of English is different from British English . It is easy to comprehend and quite easy to follow .

Is B2 English level enough for university? ›

What level of English is needed to study at a university in the United States? If you want to study at a university in the United States, you must obtain a visa, which will depend, in part, on being able to communicate in the language with a minimum level of English of B2 .

Which non English country speaks the best English? ›

The Netherlands

They have a reputation for having an excellent level of English. A study by international Educational company EF Education First found that the Dutch are the best non native English speakers in the world with over 90% of the population speaking the language!

Do people speak English in Japan? ›

English is in common use in Japan with Chinese and Korean also becoming more common meaning that you can certainly get around without using Japanese. This is most true in the big cities and in areas frequented by foreign visitors. But as you move outside of the cities, foreign languages will quickly dry-up.

What is the easiest English speaking country to move to? ›

Here are the 15 best English speaking countries to move to if you want the tax advantages of living abroad without having to learn a new language.
15 Expat Countries that Speak English (and Make Sense Tax-Wise)
  1. Bahamas. ...
  2. Belize. ...
  3. Bermuda. ...
  4. Dominica. ...
  5. Gibraltar. ...
  6. Ireland. ...
  7. Isle of Man. ...
  8. Jersey.

What is the safest English speaking country? ›

Where is the safest English speaking country to live? Singapore. Singapore is a country where you can find political stability as well as safety, as there is a low crime rate there. You can also find people from various nationalities already living there.

What is the cheapest and safest country to live in? ›

10 of the cheapest and safest places to live in the world
  • Albania.
  • Portugal.
  • Costa Rica.
  • Panama.
  • Mexico.
  • Thailand.
  • Malaysia.
  • Vietnam.

What is the easiest European country for Americans to move to? ›

Portugal consistently tops lists of the best places for expats to live, and in fact, the number of Americans living in Portugal rose 45% in 2021, according to government data.

Can you live in USA without speaking English? ›

While it is extremely helpful to speak English when you live in the United States, not all immigrants are required to learn English to come to the U.S. In fact, the United States does not have a national language. Interestingly, you don't even necessarily need to know English to become a nationalized citizen.

What is the cheapest English speaking country to live in Europe? ›

Montenegro is popularly known as one of the cheapest place to live in Europe that speak English and has a higher percentage of English-speaking population. If you are someone, who is not interested in learning a new language to move to a new EU country, Montenegro is for you.

Which language is so close to English? ›

However, the closest major language to English, is Dutch. With 23 million native speakers, and an additional 5 million who speak it as a second language, Dutch is the 3rd most-widely spoken Germanic language in the world after English and German.

Is the English language declining? ›

There is no such thing as linguistic decline, so far as the expressive capacity of the spoken or written word is concerned. We need not fear a breakdown in communication. Our language will always be as flexible and sophisticated as it has been up to now.

What is the hardest language in EU? ›

Finnish is the dark horse of languages found in Europe and one of the hardest worldwide.

What is the lowest level of English language? ›

English Language Level Test
Level 0No knowledge of English
Level 1Elementary level of EnglishA2
Level 2Low intermediate level of EnglishB1
Level 3High intermediate level of EnglishB2
2 more rows

Is English language proficiency low in India? ›

According to the Lok Foundation survey, English is far more an urban than a rural phenomenon; just 3% of rural respondents said that they could speak English, as against 12% of urban respondents. There is a clear class element at work—41% of the rich could speak English as against less than 2% of the poor.

What is the 2nd most spoken language if English is not counted? ›

Spanish (548+ million speakers)

Spanish is the second most widely spoken language globally in terms of native speakers. In addition, it is the most spoken of the Romance languages and the third most used on the internet.

Which countries use less English? ›

These include China, The Gambia, Malawi, Colombia, Swaziland, Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Algeria, Uganda, Yemen, Chile and Tanzania.

What level of English is fluent? ›

Level C1 corresponds to users who can express themselves fluently and spontaneously. They can use language flexibly and effectively for all purposes.

Is C2 native? ›

A C2 level of English is essentially a native level. It allows for reading and writing of any type on any subject, nuanced expression of emotions and opinions, and active participation in any academic or professional setting.

What percentage of China speaks English? ›

CountryEligible populationTotal English speakers
50 more rows

What percent of Pakistan speaks English? ›

Pakistan has the third largest number of English speakers in the world at 108,036,049 speakers. The English spoken in Pakistan is a variation of the language and is called Pakistani English or Paklish. About 27% of the Pakistani population speaks English as a first language while 58% speak English as a second language.

Is America mostly English? ›

English Americans (historically known as Anglo-Americans) are Americans whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in England. In the 2020 American Community Survey, 25.21 million self-identified as being of English origin.
Number of English Americans.
Results per U.S. census
5 more rows

What is sweetest language in the world? ›

According to a UNESCO survey, Bengali has been classified as the sweetest language in the world. As a language, Bengali is widely spoken all over India, including Assam and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The sweetest language in the world is also recognized in the Constitution of India.

What's the easiest language to learn? ›

And The Easiest Language To Learn Is…
  1. Norwegian. This may come as a surprise, but we have ranked Norwegian as the easiest language to learn for English speakers. ...
  2. Swedish. ...
  3. Spanish. ...
  4. Dutch. ...
  5. Portuguese. ...
  6. Indonesian. ...
  7. Italian. ...
  8. French.
Nov 9, 2021

What is the No 1 language in the world? ›

1. English – 1,121 million speakers. It is the most widely spoken language in the world because of the global impact of England and the United States in the last three centuries.


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