During my journeys, I have noticed that travelers who come from relatively small countries that have their own language often can speak foreign languages very well. Perhaps the explanation is that no one else outside the borders of the country can speak their language, so they have to learn foreign languages. Language institute EF has measured how well people across the world understand English, and the results seem to reflect my small country theory to a certain extent.
Dark blue and dark grey indicate countries with high English skills (EF).
EF is a global language school specialized in teaching English to adults. More than one million people took the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), whose 2017 results were compiled and published here.
The EF index of countries created from the test results measure a country’s English language skills relative to other countries. The 2017 index ranked 80 countries and territories.
Countries with very high English skills are:
08. South Africa
Houses along a canal in Netherlands.
EF remarks on the high ranking of European countries in the index: “Eight of the top 10 countries in this year’s index are in Europe. High levels of English proficiency go hand in hand with Europe’s multiculturalism, economic integration, tourism, and mobility – even at a time when some Europeans are questioning their common project and the value of globalization itself.”
According to EF tests, countries with high skills in English are the following:
20. Czech Republic
26. Dominican Republic
29. Hong Kong
30. South Korea
35. Costa Rica
You can try the test yourself that has provided the data for the ranking. The test measures your ability to understand both what you read and what you hear.
The rest of the EF-ranked countries by their English skills:
61. Sri Lanka
69. El Salvador
72. Saudi Arabia