English is the world’s most widely spoken language but is unusual in the fact that the vast majority of speakers are not ‘native’.

Of the approximately 1.5 billion people who speak English, less than 400 million use it as a first language. That means over 1 billion speak it as a secondary language.

The English Proficiency Index has published its latest research on where English is learned around the world and quality of teaching in each country to find the places with the highest proficiency of English as a second language.

 EF English Proficiency Index compiled annually based on adult exam results.

Image: EF English Proficiency Index

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. It is ahead of five other northern European nations at the top of the chart.

In fact, the only non-European nation in the top ten is Singapore at number six.


Image: EF English Proficiency Index

It is not surprising that Europe has so many nations near the top of the Index given historical trade links with the UK and the fact that it is one of three ‘working languages’, along with French and German, of the European Commission.


Image: EF English Proficiency Index

Although European nations feature prominently at the top of the Index, Asia has a higher overall average proficiency.

Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines all received strong ratings.

Latin America

Image: EF English Proficiency Index

Argentina stands out as the most proficient Latin American nation – only it and the Dominican Republic are rated higher than ‘low’ or ‘very low’ proficiency.

Middle East and North Africa

Image: EF English Proficiency Index

The poorest performing region is the Middle East and North Africa where all but two nations – Morocco and the United Arab Emirates are rated very low.

Innovation and wealth

The report found that better English in a country correlates with higher income, higher levels of innovation and a better quality of life

In nearly all countries surveyed, women had stronger English skills than men.