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Old 11-17-2012, 03:13 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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This is an index of the proficiency of English in countries where it is not the majority first language, ranked by how well a sample of people from each country performed. Of course it's not totally scientific, but interesting nonetheless.

EF English Proficiency Index - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Some revealing results. Do any of the rankings surprise you? It's interesting to note that, of these nations, English is the official language of Singapore yet probably spoken as a FIRST language by perhaps 40% of the population. It's the medium of education, but knowing a lot of Singaporeans I can say that a good percentage of these speakers are not 100% grammatically correct/have some weird pronunciation. The Scandinavian nations on top don't surprise me, I've met Swedes and Norwegians especially who speak even better than native British, largely because they 'learn by the book.'

One interesting thing that I notice is many Eastern European nations rank higher than Western European nations. Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland.etc are all above France, Italy. I'm surprised to see France below Japan, despite being so close to the UK and getting a lot of British tourists! I've heard there's a lot of resistance by French people to speaking English, so maybe not too surprising. Knowing Italians and Spanish they definitely lag a lot behind the Northern Europeans.

Latin America and some Middle Eastern nations not surprisingly rank very low. I was surprised Thailand ranked THAT low, I definitely feel English proficiency in Thailand is overrated by Westerners who come into contact with those working in the tourist industry. Taiwan and SK rank quite a bit higher than Thailand. Vietnam ranks surprisingly high, from visiting I got the impression Vietnam was one of the worst countries. Russia is no surprise.

For countries not sampled, I'd imagine Sri Lanka would score high: higher than India, as would South Africa, although a surprising number of South Africans cannot speak English. I have an white Afrikaans friend who only learned English at the age of 10! PNG would be interesting. I'd guess Greece is low too.
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Old 11-17-2012, 04:23 AM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
This is an index of the proficiency of English in countries where it is not the majority first language, ranked by how well a sample of people from each country performed. Of course it's not totally scientific, but interesting nonetheless.

EF English Proficiency Index - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Some revealing results. Do any of the rankings surprise you?
Not hugely. It makes sense that there is a high proficiency in Scandinavian or small European countries where the proficiency of their own language in other nations is so low, either because their country is so small or their language is so difficult to learn. Nations were there is a lot of international business will probably also have a high English proficiency. You might think that nations with a lot of tourism like France, Spain, etc would have a higher than "moderate" proficiency in English but when Spanish and French are among some of the most spoken languages in the world, there is less need for them to learn English.

Quote:
I'm surprised to see France below Japan, despite being so close to the UK and getting a lot of British tourists!
This does not surprise me at all - like I say, French is among some of the more popular languages of the world so there is less need for the French to learn English. Even having a lot of British tourists, keep in mind that while most Americans choose Spanish as a secondary language to learn in school, the British typically choose French. I don't know a single English person who doesn't know at least a few phrases of French. It's because the nations are so close that the British are familiar with the French language. In fact, from around the 11th century up to the late 14th century, the majority of the upper class, nobility, and royalty of England did not even speak English - they spoke a form of French called Anglo-Norman. Granted, that has not been true for many centuries but the point is that French always has and always will have a large impact on English culture.

Quote:
I've heard there's a lot of resistance by French people to speaking English, so maybe not too surprising.
Of course, that's possible too. The French do have a stereotype of being elitists who might think it beneath them to learn English.
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Old 11-17-2012, 05:40 AM
 
Location: Near Tours, France about 47°10'N 0°25'E
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
One interesting thing that I notice is many Eastern European nations rank higher than Western European nations. Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland.etc are all above France, Italy. I'm surprised to see France below Japan, despite being so close to the UK and getting a lot of British tourists! I've heard there's a lot of resistance by French people to speaking English, so maybe not too surprising. Knowing Italians and Spanish they definitely lag a lot behind the Northern Europeans.
I find interesting that you seem to expect western Europe as a whole to be more English-speaking than other areas, such as eastern Europe. Western Europe is culturally/linguistically divided into Germanic-speaking and Romance-speaking nations. English being a germanic language it is not surprising that it is more easily adopted in the the more culturally similar nations of the Germanic Europe than in latin countries of southwestern Europe to which France is part of.
The other factor is the importance of the international language. France or Spain are two nations with international languages widely spoken in many parts of the world, so the necessity of knowing english is not as important as it can be in countries whose language is much less spoken such as Scandinavian nations or Netherlands. English is naturally the lingua Franca of the lesser germanic nations of Europe (not English or German-speaking).

The "resistance" of french people to speak English is a myth. We are not more resistant to speak English than the other latin nations of Europe such as Italy or Spain do. And we certainly speak much more foreign languages than the Anglophones generally do, not only English (Europe is not as much centrered around English language only as international way of communication as many Anglophones like to think) but also Spanish, German or Italian.
English-speaking culture usually fascinate people, but it doesn't mean that we speak it well. since we already speak an international language; many people, especially those who do not travel much in northern Europe have no real necessity to speak English.

The fact of France being situated just below England doesn't mean that we should expect us to be speaking English. Italy is just below Germany the same way France is below England, but doesn't speak much of German, despite having tons of German tourists on their coasts.
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Old 11-17-2012, 07:02 AM
 
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English is the official language of Singapore yet probably spoken as a FIRST language by perhaps 40% of the population. It's the medium of education, but knowing a lot of Singaporeans I can say that a good percentage of these speakers are not 100% grammatically correct/have some weird pronunciation.
LOL, did you ever see Forest Gump? The three Yorkshiremen sketch? A characteristic of English is that it's not usually gramatically correct and anyone can point a finger at any other native speaker and call their pronunciations funny in some way.
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Old 11-17-2012, 06:16 PM
 
Location: Duluth, Minnesota, USA
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I'm surprised at India not being higher, at China being higher than Mexico, and Malaysia being so high. The results really aren't that surprising though.
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Old 11-17-2012, 09:55 PM
 
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I'm also surprised France is lower than Japan. When I was in France it seemed like everyone under the age of 50 spoke pretty good english and everyone under 30 seemed to speak it very well.
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Old 11-17-2012, 11:04 PM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Originally Posted by tvdxer View Post
I'm surprised at India not being higher, at China being higher than Mexico, and Malaysia being so high. The results really aren't that surprising though.
Malaysia was a British colony, and perhaps no other British colony in Asia was as Anglicized as Malaya. Actually, a lot of the English speaking was promoted after Independence, especially in Singapore, which is why Singapore has more first language English speakers can anywhere in the Old World except for Britain and Ireland.
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Old 11-18-2012, 10:37 AM
 
Location: The Netherlands
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Belgium #6 is very surprising to me. I lived in Namur (the capital of Wallonia) and the people there could hardly speak English. I went to University there as well and we had one course in English; the Belgian students were really struggling and asked me for my notes after every class because they couldn't understand what the professor was saying. If Belgium is the 6th most proficient country in English then that must be because of the Flanders region.

I think this list is very strange anyway. I refuse to believe Germany is only slightly more proficient in English than Poland or that Japan and South Korea are more proficient than France. According to the Eurobarometer, around 1/3 of French people could speak English at a conversational level. I doubt it's anywhere near that for Japan and SK.
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:35 AM
 
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Everyone in Japan learns English at school. however, Japanese education is awful, so very few of the people who can read and write well can converse in English.

A lot of Polish people work in other countries, so English is helpful for them. My POV is skewed, though, all the Germans I know earned advanced degrees in English.
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Old 11-18-2012, 01:37 PM
 
Location: Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne
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Poland does not surprise me because there has been in the recent past a strong demand for English education to serve Poles who desired to emigrate to English speaking countries for work. From what I know of English education in Polish universities, it is very comprehensive and includes not only communication skills, but a wide range of literature as well.

Scandinavia and the Netherlands (plus Flanders in Belgium) rankings are obvious. English is pretty simple for these speakers of closely related languages. Pronunciation and prepositions are the biggest hurdles, even most of the strong, also called irregular verbs (i.e. swim, swam, swum) are nearly identical. They also watch a lot of English language television, furthering their grasp of idiomatic speech, an area that even testing does not cover.

The only one that surprised me a little was Slovakia, but maybe their situation s akin to the Poles?
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