Shakespeare better watch out! It is not only in the United Kingdom that we master the English language perfectly. On the contrary, other European countries do not have to be ashamed of their capacities. And hold on tight because they’re not always the ones you think of…
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 just about anywhere in the world. Yes but no !
Overall, Europe appears to be a good student: on average, Europeans – for whom English is not the mother tongue – have a B2 level. This is a “current” mastery of English, the level expected in terminale in France. Only about ten countries do better and can boast of an “advanced” mastery of English, close to bilingualism. A plus, if you plan to do your Erasmus+ mobility there.
Netherlands, Austria and Denmark: kings of English
According to Education First (Swedish company specialized in learning English), 11 European countries have an excellent command of English. At the top of the poster, we find the 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 bordering France are also in pole position like the Belgium (629), germany (617) or the Luxemburg (604).
More surprisingly, the Portugal ranks seventh globally (625). Education First also notes a great progress of the country in just ten years : with +116 points between 2011 and 2021, the country has gone 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 rank||Country||Score Education First|
Fluency in English for more open-mindedness
Some cities stand out. Whether Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Vienna or even Stockholm remain pioneers with scores ranging from 646 to 682, other cities are very English speaking.
And it’s not just European capitals. We find for example Portjust in front of Lisbon in Portugal. Zagreb in Croatia but also Budapest in Hungary, Berlin and Hamburg neck and neck for Germany as well as Warsaw Poland, Athens in Greece, Zürich in Switzerland or Bucharest in Romania and Belgrade in Serbia. All of these cities score above 600 on the Education First ranking.
|2021 ranking of European cities with an excellent level (C1) in English|
|World rank||Cities||Country||Score Education First|
But all this is not surprising. According to the Erasmus+ agency, English remains the language most used 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 whatever the sector of activity. The countries that master the language best are also those that attach greater importance to international trade. English can therefore be a plus for finding work and will also undoubtedly allow you to acquire a good open-mindedness.
Courses in English in non-English speaking countries
To improve your language level, going to study abroad seems to be the best solution. “People need lots of exposure and practice (about 1,200 hours to go from beginner to upper intermediate) to learn a language. Going abroad for total immersion is the quickest option,” recommends Education First.
As a student, you should have no trouble making yourself understood by your peers: 21–30 year olds have the best command of English. Today, academic systems are adapting and offering courses in English. The Czech Republic, Romania and Poland are particularly renowned for their pedagogy.
But this is also the case in countries where English seems less innate, such as Spain or Italy, which are rather bad students in this area. “With the internationalization of higher education, the pressure to attract foreign students has increased, 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 sense.”
Moreover, in some countries, English is not enough: almost half of the inhabitants master at least three foreign languages. This is the case of Luxembourg, Finland or Norway. Because ultimately, a stay abroad is also the best way to discover a culture, getting used to a new language, as different from English as it may be.