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Europe

EF EPI Average: 53.49 Average Population: 720426960 GNI per capita: $ 29927

Proficiency:

  • Very High
  • High
  • Moderate
  • Low
  • Very Low
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Europe EF EPI Average: 53.49

Proficiency:

  • Very High
  • High
  • Moderate
  • Low
  • Very Low
Learn More

EUROPE LEADS BY PROMOTING MULTILINGUALISM

Promoting foreign language education is at the core of the European Union’s multilingualism policy, which aims to facilitate movement within Europe and protect the rich linguistic diversity of the continent.

As a result, English proficiency in Europe is the strongest in the world, with European countries occupying nine of the top 10 positions in the index this year. However, our results show significant regional differences in English proficiency. These disparities are tied to differences in national education systems and language education policies, as well as the prevalence of English in everyday life.

THE NETHERLANDS AND THE NORDIC COUNTRIES REMAIN ON TOP

The Very High Proficiency band once again features the Netherlands and four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden). These five countries have occupied the top five slots in five of six editions of the EF EPI, proving themselves to be world leaders in English language education.

English proficiency is largely ensured by the public education systems in these countries, which have included English as a compulsory subject throughout primary and secondary school for four decades or more. The foreign language teaching policies in these countries focus on communication rather than on the mastery of grammar.

Finland

Proficiency: Very High
EF EPI Score: 66.61
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Sweden

Proficiency: Very High
EF EPI Score: 70.81
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Denmark

Proficiency: Very High
EF EPI Score: 71.15
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Norway

Proficiency: Very High
EF EPI Score: 68.54
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However, schooling alone cannot explain the consistently strong proficiency levels in Northern Europe. Daily life in the region is characterized by constant exposure to English through non-dubbed English-language media, particularly on television. This level of exposure expands vocabulary and increases comprehension and production abilities, even among young children not yet studying English formally.

There is still room for improvement, however, even in these countries with high English proficiency. Recent reforms have tackled the problem of inadequate command of academic and formal written English among Scandinavian students, which, in the long run, limits study abroad opportunities and dampens economic competitiveness.

SUCCESSES OF MULTILINGUAL INSTRUCTION

Several Central European countries have experienced small but steady improvements in English proficiency over the past decade. Countries such as Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland have made huge efforts to implement national teaching standards and curricula aimed at increasing the quality of foreign language instruction. These countries' positive results can be attributed to policies that require students to study more than one foreign language, with English as a required foreign language in the curriculum.

Countries with more than one official language, such as Belgium and Switzerland, have managed to include a high level of English instruction in their students’ education alongside their national languages, demonstrating that it is possible for students to master multiple foreign languages.

Although public expenditure on education remains low in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Serbia compared to other countries in Europe, all three countries boast a remarkable level of English proficiency. In these countries, there is a widespread acceptance that foreign language skills are essential for international integration, coupled with education systems that emphasize the importance of English and other foreign languages in knowledge-based economies.

THE MYTH OF A NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE

Rather than a geographic rift in English proficiency levels, our data indicate a more subtle linguistic lag in countries with Latinate languages. The three largest European economies with Romance languages as their primary national languages – France, Italy, and Spain – show English proficiency levels at or below the European average. Italy and Spain are in a stable position compared to last year and have improved somewhat in the past eight years. Recent reforms in these countries have made English compulsory and introduced communicative teaching methods in schools, but improvements so far have been modest.

As for France, despite a long-anticipated improvement in proficiency levels, the country still lags behind its European neighbors. Teaching methods in France do not emphasize the development of communication skills, and people have little exposure to English in everyday life. In addition, the idea of “Americanization” has influenced the public debate on foreign language education policies in the country, complicating practical conversations about teaching by bringing in the emotionally charged issue of national identity. It remains to be seen if France's improvement will continue in the coming years, bringing the country more in line with the rest of the region.

EUROPE'S LEAST PROFICIENT COUNTRIES

Although English proficiency in Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey has improved slightly since last year, these countries still remain far behind their European neighbors. In these countries outside the European Union, English instruction is still delivered in local languages, focuses on memorization rather than communication, and suffers from a lack of standardization of the curricula. However, score improvements in the past few years show that national efforts to boost English skills in Russia and Turkey are beginning to have some impact.

Russia

Proficiency: Low
EF EPI Score: 52.32
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Turkey

Proficiency: Very Low
EF EPI Score: 47.89
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Azerbaijan

Proficiency: Very Low
EF EPI Score: 46.9
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GENDER GAP

The average scores for European men and women are significantly higher than the global averages. In accordance with global trends, European women have markedly higher proficiency levels than European men.

GENERATION GAP

European adults have the widest range of proficiency scores of adults in any region. On average, college-aged students fall in the High Proficiency band, while adults over 40 fall below global averages for their age group. Older Europeans attended schools with significantly different language education curricula, and that difference is clear from the range of skill levels exhibited.

  • Average

CONCLUSION

Europe’s English proficiency remains far higher than that of other regions, with Northern and Central Europe leading the world. The large Romance-language countries are at or below the European average, and countries at the edge of the European Union perform at an entirely different level from the rest of the region. Given the vital role of multilingualism in today's interconnected world, Europe's language education policy sets the global standard. Although these efforts have not been entirely successful, the policy promotes standardization and economic competitiveness while respecting the region's linguistic diversity.

READ ABOUT OTHER REGIONS

Asia

Every country in Asia, no matter how skilled, would benefit economically from higher English proficiency across a broader swath of the workforce.

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Latin America

Overall, English proficiency in Latin America is low, and there is substantial room for improvement.

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Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa has the lowest level of English proficiency in the world, and the overall level of proficiency is improving in only a few countries.

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