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Here are the most English-proficient cities and countries in the world

Here are the most English-proficient cities and countries in the world

The 2021 EF English Proficiency Index is out, and the top ranks are hardly surprising

This year’s EF English Proficiency Index has just been released and it gives a fresh glimpse into the most English-proficient nations, regions and cities in the world. In 2021 the Index, released by Education First, analyses 112 countries where English is considered a foreign language, with an estimated total population of over 2 billion people.

To make their conclusions, the team tested the English proficiency of about 2 million people who took a test in 2020. The results: a clear dominance of European countries and cities, with The Netherlands, and its capital Amsterdam, coming out on top for yet another year.

Which are the most English proficient countries in 2021?

The Index divides territorial entities into ones with Very High, High, Moderate Low or Very Low Proficiency. A score between 600 and 699 would be equivalent to C1 of the CEFR (a common measurement for English proficiency for non-native speakers), while scores between 700 and 800 are equivalent to C2.

The elite list of counties with Very High proficiency consists of 13 countries, 10 of which are in the EU:

  1. Netherlands 663 points (out of 800)
  2. Austria 641
  3. Denmark 636
  4. Singapore 635
  5. Norway 632
  6. Belgium 629
  7. Portugal 625
  8. Sweden 623
  9. Finland 618
  10. Croatia 617
  11. Germany 616
  12. South Africa 606
  13. Luxembourg 604

The Netherlands has been consistently occupying the top spot since 2015 and has been in the top 3 since the first edition of the Index in 2011.  It is also interesting to note that the remaining EU-member states classify as either high or moderately proficient in English.

Not only have European countries outperformed others, but Europe as a continent scores first on the average, once again. This shows a stable presence of the language and a relatively good distribution of English proficiency across the states.

Which are the most English proficient cities in 2021?

In terms of cities and regions, EF studied around 400 entities. The city ranking follows pretty much the same trend of EU domination, with the top being occupied by The Netherlands’ chief city and it is mainly composed of capitals. Here is what the Very High Proficiency looks like:

  1. Amsterdam 682
  2. Copenhagen 668
  3. Helsinki 659
  4. Vienna 658
  5. Stockholm 646
  6. Porto 643
  7. Johannesburg 641
  8. Lisbon 638
  9. Zagreb 635
  10. Oslo 633
  11. Budapest 628
  12. Berlin 622
  13. Hamburg 622
  14. Warsaw 621
  15. Athens 616
  16. Zurich 616
  17. Bucharest 612
  18. Belgrade 604
  19. Nairobi 601

The Amsterdam city website claims that one of the top reasons international companies chose to set up there is particularly the high English proficiency among the population, which ensures employees can contribute and adapt easily to a diverse working and living environment, and share ideas beyond cultural borders.

Why is studying English important?

In the EU, passing borders and communicating smoothly with other nations seems something normal, thanks to the principle of freedom of movement and exchange programmes such as Erasmus+. It is thus mandatory to maintain a common means of communication which facilitates this exchange.

But speaking English as a foreign language has economic value, on top of the cultural perks. According to the report, the past decade has shown consistent correlations between English proficiency and GDP, income per capita, and a range of other economic indicators. The report also connects it to talent competitiveness and global innovation.

You may find the full EF English Proficiency Index report on the company’s website, learn more about the methodology and find out how your country scored on the test.



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