Shakespeare better watch out! It’s not just in the UK that we master the English language perfectly. On the contrary, other European countries need not be ashamed of their capabilities. And hold on because they’re not always what you think…
Of the 2.5 billion English speakers on our planet, for 80% of them, English is not their mother tongue. With such a number, you’re probably thinking that you could learn to speak English anywhere in the world. Yes, but no !
Overall, Europe seems to be a good student: on average, Europeans – for whom English is not their mother tongue – have a B2 level. This is a “current” mastery of English, the level expected at terminale in France. Only about ten countries do better and can boast an “advanced” mastery of English, bordering on bilingualism. Plus, if you plan to do your Erasmus+ mobility there.
Netherlands, Austria and Denmark: Kings of English
According to Education First (a Swedish company specializing in learning English), 11 European countries have an excellent command of English. At the top of the poster we find Netherlands with a score of 663 (according to the Education First English Proficiency Index), then Austria (641) or the Denmark (636).
If the scandinavian countries are naturally well ranked, the countries that border France are also in pole position, such as Belgium (629), Germany (617) or the Luxembourg (604).
Most surprisingly, the Portugal ranks seventh globally (625). Education First also observes a great progress of the country in just ten years : with +116 points between 2011 and 2021, the country went from a low B2 level to a good C1 level (i.e. a very good command of English). In comparison, France ranks 31st in the worldfar behind Serbia, Poland, Greece or even Latvia and the Czech Republic.
|2021 ranking of European countries with an excellent level (C1) in English|
|world ranking||Country||Score education first|
English fluency for a more open mind
Some cities stand out. if Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Vienna or even Stockholm remain pioneers with scores ranging from 646 to 682, other cities speak a lot of English.
And it’s not just European capitals. We found for example Doorstraight ahead Lisbon in Portugal. Zagreb in Croatia, but also Budapest in Hungary, Berlin and Hamburg neck and neck to Germany as well as Warsaw Poland, Athens in Greece, zurich in Switzerland or Bucharest in Romania and Belgrade in Serbia. All of these cities score above 600 in the Education First ranking.
|2021 ranking of European cities with excellent level (C1) in English|
|world ranking||Cities||Country||Score education first|
But all this is not surprising. According to the Erasmus+ agency, English remains the most used language during mobility (64%)far ahead of Spanish or French (14 and 10% in 2017). Seven out of ten students also say they mainly used English during their mobility in Europe.
As confirmed by Education First, today English has become indispensable in any sector of activity. The countries that best master the language are also those that attribute greater importance for international trade. English can therefore be an advantage in finding work and will undoubtedly also allow you to acquire a good open mind.
English courses in non-English speaking countries
To improve your language level, studying abroad seems to be the best solution. “People need a lot of exposure and practice (about 1,200 hours to go from beginner to upper intermediate) to learn a language. Going abroad for full immersion is the fastest option,” recommends Education First.
As a student, you should have no problem making yourself understood by your peers: people aged between 21 and 30 have the best command of English. Today, academic systems are adapting and offering courses in English. The Czech Republic, Romania and Poland are particularly known for their pedagogy.
But this is also the case in countries where English seems less innate, like Spain or Italy, which are pretty bad students in this area. “With the internationalization of higher education, pressure has increased to attract foreign students, which often means that Universities in non-English speaking countries offer degree programs in English“, believes Education First, before specifying that “international students can also learn the language of their host country (and become excellent ambassadors) if they are encouraged and supported in this regard”.
Also, in some countries, English is not enough: almost half of the inhabitants speak at least three foreign languages. This is the case of Luxembourg, Finland and Norway. Because, ultimately, a stay abroad is also the best way to get to know a culture, get used to a new language, however different English may be.