EF Education First has just released its 9th annual EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), which analyses data from 2.3 million non-native speakers in over 100 countries. This year, the Netherlands has replaced last year’s winner, Sweden, in pole position. Since the EF EPI began releasing annual data on English proficiency, the Dutch have won twice and have been among the top three for the last nine years.
Rapidly growing globalisation means that today, English has become the principal language of business – the world’s lingua franca. English is spoken by a quarter of the world’s population, and by 2020, the British Council forecasts that two billion people will be using or learning English in the world – so there will be no slowdown in the numbers of people learning English anytime soon.
What is the EF EPI report?
The EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) attempts to rank countries by the average level of English language skills amongst those adults who took the EF test.
This is the world’s first free standardized English test and has been used worldwide by thousands of schools, companies, and governments for large-scale testing. This year almost 2.3 million adults were tested, making this the largest EPI test up to date.
English remains the undisputed global language of business. Our ninth edition of the EF EPI is more comprehensive than ever, providing valuable insights for governments to evaluate their language learning policies and the return on their investments in language training.
Dr. Minh Tran, EF Executive Director of Academic Affairs.
Globally, multinational companies have long recognised the importance of English as a vital pillar of their business and employee success. English not only opens up a multitude of business and career opportunities – it also closes the distance between individuals so that they capitalise on their strengths and forge new truly global alliances.
Today, over one billion people speak English as a first or second language. Learning English means so much more than simply learning a new language. For businesses, graduates, scientists, tourists, and researchers, English broadens our horizons, opens up new opportunities, and breaks new ground. The importance of learning English has never been greater. The EF EPI report investigates how and where English proficiency is developing around the world. The current 9th edition of the English Proficiency index presents a detailed analysis of the data on English proficiency from the 2.3 million adults who took the test in 2018.
The key takeaways of the EF EPI 2019 report:
- English proficiency is improving: In this year’s report, more countries have achieved very high proficiency status than ever before. Around 11 countries’ scores improved notably – gaining more than two points compared to the previous year.
- English and innovation go hand in hand: It is no surprise that English is the principal language of international collaboration. Companies that employ managers from a diverse range of countries of origin earn more revenue from innovation than their less diverse competitors. English- teams are also able to attract more diverse talent and implement cutting-edge ideas from around the world.
- Adults in their late twenties speak the best English: With the growing prominence of English instruction in university education globally, this year’s EPI report highlights that adults aged 26-30 have the strongest English skills followed by adults aged 21-25 who have the second-best English skills on
- The gender gap is closing: Last year’s report showed that womens’ average level of English was higher than mens’ around the world. Since then, the gap has started to close – since the test began, men’s scores have outperformed women’s in Latin America. Overall, women’s English proficiency outstripped men’s by less than one point in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
- Europe has the highest overall English proficiency level: Except for Spain, Italy, and France who continue to lag behind their European neighbors in this year EF EPI report.
- Latin America is turning around: Latin America is finally turning around after years of stagnation. Twelve out of eighteen countries surveyed in the region improved their proficiency between 2017 and 2018.
Conclusion: Open up to a world of opportunity!
Learning English is now more important than ever; the current report highlights that countries with better English skills are not only more competitive but also more open to new business opportunities. Countries with a good level of English proficiency are better able to leverage new opportunities, make use of cutting-edge knowledge, and secure the best talent from around the world. To learn English means to open the door to a wealth of new opportunities, personal growth, and gain an invaluable insight into the world’s shared knowledge. Increasingly globalised markets and exciting new economic development opportunities mean that becoming successful in English is now an essential skill for present and future generations.
Although there might not be a one-size-fits-all solution to building a strong culture of English proficiency, regions and countries that display the strongest English skills share several common strategies and similarities:
- They start teaching English to all children – usually starting in primary school using a communicative-based methodology.
- All university subjects require students to study English courses alongside their major
- They do not dub English-language movies or television shows so children are regularly exposed to English from a young age.
How can you improve your English?
So, how can you as an individual improve your proficiency in English and simultaneously improve your country’s score for the next EF EPI?
Well, because we are all unique and learn in different ways, there is no universal solution that works in every situation for each individual. That said, here are six useful techniques used by the most successful English language programs and recommended by the EF EPI 2019 report.
- Study English every day: Even if you only study for a few minutes, try to practice a little bit of English every day. Study for 20-30 minutes rather than for hours at a time.
- Set specific, achievable goals and write them down: Create small and achievable goals when learning English, so you don’t end up setting up unrealistic goals that will put you off learning.
- Memorize vocabulary: Start memorizing vocabulary relevant to your job or field and begin using it
- Practice speaking: Practice speaking English even if it’s just reading a book or practicing a song out loud. This will improve your pronunciation and boost your confidence.
- Watch TV, movies and read in English: What both last year’s winner and this year’s winner, Sweden and the Netherlands have in common is that they never dub their TV-shows or movies. This increases their daily exposure to English. Allowing TV shows and movies to be shown in their original language, with subtitles rather than dubbing, .
- When travelling to an English-speaking country, speak as much as possible: Often when starting out learning English, people tend to shy away from being put on the spot and making mistakes in front of others. However, the best advice is to seek out opportunities to speak English as often as possible don’t be afraid of making mistakes – usually, the person you are talking to won’t even notice!
How you can improve your English skills with English Live!
As we mentioned above, because we all have diverse academic and linguistic needs while learning English, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Luckily, English Live has a wealth of experience in tailoring our courses to your unique needs. By joining English Live, you can learn English online with us regardless of your previous knowledge or experience.
Find out how English Live works:
- Before joining our English Live school, you will complete the EF SET® test. This provides us with a detailed understanding of your level of English proficiency so that we can create a tailored study plan just for you.
- English Live uses the latest learning methodologies – we help you to quickly progress through a combination of self-study lessons and online learning with expert teachers in real-life classes.
- Our courses are aligned with the CEFR and we offer you 16 levels of English. With our EF SET® test we know what level is right for you and make sure you reach your full potential.
- Our interactive lessons are available anytime on any device – this makes it easy for you to learn English anytime no matter where you are or what you are doing. You also have access to thousands of professionally certified, native-speaker teachers who are there to support you every day.
- Target your goals – specialize your English studies according to your needs. With English Live, you can focus on developing your Business English, Travel English, Job Specific English or test prep for TOEFL or TOEIC.