Italians, French, Germans, Spaniards: Who speaks better English?

This year, European rivalries are on even more, as can be seen from the latest edition of the EF EPI research, the English Language Knowledge Index published by EF Education First. The rivalry between the largest countries in Europe goes far beyond wine, food and football in the latest edition. This time the rivalry is not about the best football team, the tastiest cousine or who provides the most delicious wine. We are wondering: who can really speak English best out of these four countries?

Fluent knowledge of English, the language of scientific research, business and diplomacy, is a strong indicator of the economic competitiveness of a country and its future prospects.The latest report is showing that three of the largest economies in Europe, France, Spain and Italy are falling behind in English, a figure consistent with previous editions of the EF EPI. Of the three, only France has achieved slight improvements in the last two years.

european rankings

The gap in the level of knowledge of English is particularly worrying, because both Italy and Spain suffer from high unemployment rates, especially among young people and would desperately need new economic opportunities that faster, smoother communications with the rest of Europe would bring. The report, 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. The EF English Proficiency Index places the surveyed countries and territories into five proficiency bands, from Very High to Very Low.

“Today, English is a fundamental language to maintain relations between countries of different cultures, it is not a surprise that, in Spain, if we want to maintain these relations, we must include English in our lives.”

Leire Laboreo, Sales Team leader of EF English Live in Spain.

What does the ranking mean?

european trends

In the latest edition of the EF EPI research, Italy is ranking at number 36 out of 100 countries in the world and our score of 55.31 places Italy in the average level of knowledge. Germany, France, and Spain are all in first place, respectively in 10th, 31st and 35th place. Leaving aside the good score obtained by Germany (63.77) which makes it appear in the top ten countries with the best knowledge of English in the world, France, Spain and Italy are positioned all three in the average level of knowledge of the English language.

This level means that France, Italy and Spain are generally able to complete the following actions in English: attend meetings, understand the words of the songs and write professional emails on commonly used topics. Despite this, however, Italy’s level of English proficiency is still too low to address efficient workplace interactions and may prevent us from expanding our business and our international collaborations.

A global language reduces the costs of transaction


English is now more than ever important to learn; the report tells us that countries with English skills are more competitive and open. These countries are usually better to take advantage of opportunities, knowledge and talent around the world. A global language reduces the costs of transactions between different countries. This means that the more English is adopted and used, the greater the savings generated for the country itself. With the world more globalized and with economic development, learning English is seen more as a core skill for the present and for the future generations

What can we learn from the test?

Today, more than a billion people speak English as a first or second language. Learning English is so much more than learning a language. For businesses, graduates, scientists, tourists and researchers, the English language broadens horizons, opens opportunities and lowers barriers. The reasons for learning English have never been greater. Developing a culture of good knowledge of English allows companies to draw on resources and skills that, only a few years ago, would have been completely out of reach. Taking these trends into account, the results of the latest edition of EF EPI demonstrated a strong correlation between the level of knowledge of English and the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, or the relationship that evaluates a country’s ability to attract, develop and retain qualified workers.

What does countries with high level proficiency do differently?

Italy, Spain and France could get great benefits by putting into practice a practical teaching of English in schools, including even the most specialized and specific education sector – for example in three-year and master’s degree courses. In this way it would be possible to give valid support to anyone who wishes to build useful language skills for his profession.

Italy, France and Spain have one thing similar and that is the lack of exposure to the English language itself: it is necessary to improve and expand this exposure to make people much more confident of their language skills. The countries with the highest English proficiency in Europe are clustered in Scandinavia, but the number of very high proficiency countries across the region has grown every year since 2017. School systems in these countries employ several key strategies, including an early focus on communication skills, daily exposure to English both in and outside the classroom, and career-specific language instruction in the final years of study, whether that is vocational school or university. The EU’s robust data-collection and information-sharing network has been helpful in spreading best practices between member countries.

What is the easiest way to learn English?

There is no one-size-fits all solution for learning English, since we all have diverse academic and linguistic needs while learning a new language. To learn English quickly, one of the best ways is to travel to an English-speaking country and immerse in the English language and being daily exposured to the language both during and after attending an English course abroad. In this way, perfecting your English you will not only have access to better personal and professional opportunities, but you will also help your country to become an increasingly competitive and internationally innovative country.

learn english

But this might not be an option for everyone, to go abroad can be expensive and to also leave your everyday life and your busy schedule can be difficult. There are several tools to learn English if you want to learn from the comfort of your own home. With English Live you can learn English online with live teachers in a virtual classroom no matter where you are. With our interactive lessons available anytime on any device, EF English Live is designed to easily fit English learning into your schedule. There are certainly many ways to learn English nowadays and not every tool or product will work for everyone. The best thing is to get started and figure out what works for you and how you can improve your English for your future but also for your countries future.