One in four people in the world speaks or learns English. This equates to nearly 2 billion people in 2021. But the level reached by students is very uneven between different regions, and even between cities. Europe is undoubtedly the region with the best level of English, mainly due to its use as a ‘lingua franca’. Latin America, for its part, obtains mixed results, with several countries falling significantly in the ranking of English level prepared by EF.

What is the country with the best level of English?

The Netherlands is the country where English is best spoken, with a significant difference over Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Austria. On a scale from 0 to 800, the Netherlands scores an impressive average of 652 points, while Denmark scores 632, Finland 631, Sweden 625, Norway 624 and Austria 623.

This means that the inhabitants of these countries reach, on average, a C1 level of English, which allows them to understand a wide range of long and demanding texts and understand their meaning; express oneself fluently and spontaneously in a professional environment without hesitation; can use the language flexibly and effectively in social, academic and professional settings; and produce clear, well-structured, detailed, and complex written texts using language patterns, appropriate connectors, and adequate narrative.

To be able to compare, in the Spanish-speaking countries, the best score is obtained by Argentina with 566 points, even surpassing Spain, which obtains 537. Immediately after we can find Chile with 523 points, Paraguay with 517, Cuba with 512, and Bolivia with 504. All these countries have a general average equivalent to a B2, which allows students of English to understand general ideas in complex texts on both abstract and specific topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization; integrate with a high level of fluency and spontaneity with native speakers without either of them suffering communication difficulties; and produce clear texts on a wide range of topics, with the possibility of explaining their point of view on the advantages or disadvantages of a particular topic.

Within the spectrum of the lowest general level of English among the students of a country, we find the Dominican Republic with 499 points, Honduras with 498, Uruguay with 494, El Salvador and Panama with 483, Peru with 482, Guatemala with 476, Venezuela with 471 , Nicaragua with 455, Colombia with 448, Mexico with 440, and Ecuador with 411 points.

Source: EF English Proficiency Index

What is the country with the best level of English in Latin America?

Argentina leads the ranking with quite a difference, followed by Costa Rica, Chile, Paraguay, Cuba and Bolivia. 12 of the 19 countries included in the EF English Proficiency Index report increased their overall score during 2020. Five of them improved significantly: Panama, Honduras, Venezuela, Paraguay and Brazil. Most of the countries have introduced improvements in the teaching of English in their education system, which is not reflected in the EF report (which only considers the adult population) but offers a hopeful outlook for the future. Access to a good level of English offers better job opportunities for individuals , and improves a country’s ability to integrate into the global value-added chain.

In 2015, Uruguay launched an ambitious program to improve the English level of school-age students. It introduced a heavy investment in technology that enabled remote English teaching, empowering the reach of its English teachers to a broader audience than could be taught in a physical classroom. All public schools in urban areas now have English classes either in the classroom, when possible, or remotely, when necessary. Teachers were also offered the necessary tools for their permanent personal training. The project is called ” Ceibal in English “, is sponsored by the British Council, and is having very positive results: almost 80% of students in the last year of primary school reach an A2 level in 2020 , compared to 56% in 2014.

Bolivia, despite being one of the poorest countries in the region, cut its extreme poverty rates in half over the past decade, dramatically increasing children’s access to education. The EF data shows a strong increase in the level of English of adults between 20 and 30 years of age in this country.

Latin America is a region mired in violence, with 42 of the 50 cities with the highest homicide rate per inhabitant in the world. 15 of these cities are in Mexico, where the level of English has been falling continuously since 2017. In El Salvador, homicide rates have fallen by more than 50% since 2015, and the general English level of the population has increased significantly. In Honduras the figures are very similar, with a trend that has been maintained since 2011. It is important to underline that there is no connection between the level of English and insecurity directly, and these countries are still among the most dangerous on the planet. But it would seem that when society is free to work and study without fear, hope returns to people and many look to study for a way of progress to develop personally and professionally.

Source: EF English Proficiency Index

What are the advantages for a country of having a good level of English?

 

Speaking the ‘lingua franca’ par excellence considerably reduces costs between companies from different countries with different languages. There is a direct relationship between the Ease of Doing Business Index and the level of English in a society. These two factors, combined, allow nations to integrate properly into the global value chain and thus increase the level of employment in a nation. There is a direct relationship between the level of English and the GDP per capita of a nation, as the following graph indicates:

Source: EF English Proficiency Index

There may be debate about whether education in English opens the doors to progress, or if progress opens the doors to education in English, but the truth is that countries that have transformed their educational system with a strong focus on the level of English have seen their economy greatly benefited. A paradigmatic case is that of Singapore, which changed its official language to English, and the main language in school education is English. This characteristic was key to the country’s development, as Lee Kuan Ywe (LKY) mentioned on several occasions, including this interview and this panel discussion .

There is no certain evidence that the level of English translates unequivocally into economic growth, but rather there is a synergy between the two: the greater the wealth, the greater the chances of studying a foreign language, and the greater the ability of the population to speak foreign languages. , the easier the commercial integration with the world.

In Latin America, there is a great opportunity to develop the knowledge economy, selling services to the United States and Canada, since the continent is narrow and the time zones are similar in both hemispheres. The development of this type of economy requires building adequate infrastructure and training a qualified labor force.

Source: EF English Proficiency Index

Conclusions

Europe is the territory with the best average level of English for its students, given that it is the language used as a lingua franca among nations with languages of very different origin. Slavic, Nordic and Latin countries share the European Union, and to understand each other they chose English. Many countries managed, through their educational system, that their population speak a second language with a level very close to their mother tongue.

The Spanish-speaking world has a great difference between countries in terms of their level of English. To the south of the continent, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay try to overcome their geographical distance through the language that integrates them into global conversations. In Central America, Costa Rica and Cuba stand out from the rest thanks to years of investment in their educational system.

There is a strong correlation between Human Capital and English, as well as between productivity and English. This trend is in line with the findings of the economist Pankaj Ghemawat, a specialist in globalization, who estimates that countries that share a common language trade 42% more with each other than if they did not share the language.

97% of secondary school students in Europe study English. It is a compulsory subject in most of the countries of America and Asia. Most countries in Africa use English as the language of instruction for their students. These statistics give hope about the possibility of breaking down language barriers in the future. Meanwhile, a non-English speaking adult of school age requires 600 hours of instruction and another 600 hours of practice to function comfortably in a work environment. The good news is that English can be put into practice immediately thanks to technology, in social networks, in the consumption of audiovisual entertainment or to participate in cultural exchange groups, which currently exist in most cities in the world. world.

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