Swiss education company EF Education First has published the results of its research, which were based on tests taken by 750,000 people in 60 different countries in 2012. The test measured the level of English proficiency in different countries in what is known as the EF English Proficiency Index. The results were evaluated and used in the ranking of 60 countries based on individuals’ scores in the exams. Scandinavian countries are still at the top of the list, while Latin America and the Middle East show weaker English levels. This year, EF Education First has also analysed the countries’ trends in the last six years (2007-2012), which have seen an increase in investments related to language learning.
The results of the research have shown a considerable improvement of the situation in some Asian countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Malaysia has become the Asian country with the highest English proficiency of the region. However, other countries in the region such as Japan and South Korea have seen a decrease in the test results. Hong Kong has also seen its position in the ranking fall – a situation which many experts have deemed a consequence of the shift towards Chinese-based teaching.
According to Joseph Luc Ngai, director of McKinsey and Company’s Hong Kong practice, the importance of English skills when trying to find a new job has become a basic requirement, especially if individuals in Hong Kong are to compete against the rest of the citizens in mainland China. He added that both English and Chinese need to be improved, as there are already a large number of people who are fluent in both languages. As regards to foreign competition, India and Russia have already positioned themselves ahead of China, while Brazil is getting close fast.
European countries have been consistently proficient English users, especially smaller European countries which need to adopt a second language as lingua franca to communicate with the rest of the world. France, however, has seen a fall in the ranking coming in the 35th place, well behind Belgium (13th position in the ranking) or Spain (23rd position in the ranking). It has been classified as a country with low proficiency English and experts state that it is possibly a consequence of the belief that English learning would in some way damage the French language.