Czechs rank 20th worldwide in English skills, but Poland leads in the CEE region
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Czechs rank 20th worldwide in English skills, but Poland leads in the CEE region

Czechs rank as being highly skilled in English, coming in 20th out of 88 countries in the world, and 17th in Europe.

The best country (not counting Britain), according to the annual EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), was Sweden, followed by the Netherlands. The only non-European countries in the top 25 were Singapore at No. 3, South Africa at No. 6, the Philippines at No. 14 and Malaysia at No. 22.

Czechs were better than people in Hungary (21), Slovakia (24) and Lithuania (26). From the CEE region, the countries that beat Czechs are Poland (13), Romania (16), Croatia (17) and Serbia (18).

The worst performing European counties were all in the east: Albania (52), Georgia (45), Ukraine (43), Russia (42) and Belarus (38). Worldwide, the worst countries were Libya (88), Iraq (87) and Uzbekistan (86).

Among countries in Western Europe, the worst performers were all Romance-language speakers: France (35), Italy (34), and Spain (32). There were exceptions, though. Spain’s neighbor Portugal just beat the Czechs, coming in at 19th place, and already-mentioned Romania was 16th.

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The Czech Republic was also 20th in the previous ranking, but that was out of only 80 countries worldwide. It is hard to track any trend of improvement, since the rankings have been based on different numbers of countries each year. In 2011, the first year of the rankings, and in 2013 and ’14, the Czech Republic was ranked as “moderate.” In all other years it ranked as “high.”

In the current ranking, the Czech Republic had a score of 59.9, compared to Sweden’s winning 70.72. There is a gender gap, with Czech women, scoring 60.21 slightly ahead of Czech men, at 59.24.

The makers of the ranking, language educational firm EF Education First, claim that higher English proficiency leads to higher income, higher quality of life, greater ease of doing business and more innovation.

“For companies, English is a key component of remaining competitive and fostering innovation in an internationalized marketplace. As English becomes necessary for ever more interactions in the globalized world, the value of proficiency in the language grows apparent, and the cost of not speaking English grows steeper,” the report’s executive summary stated.

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“Less than a quarter of the world’s English speakers are ‘natives,’ and that proportion will continue to decline as more people learn English as an additional language. Already, experts estimate that the majority of the world’s population speaks two or more languages,” the summary added.

Women outperform men worldwide

One finding of the report is that in general, women speak better English than men. “This finding has been true for all eight EF EPI indices. … Research into how boys and girls learn foreign languages has shown that female students are more motivated, use a wider variety of strategies to retain new information, and are more willing to make mistakes,” EF stated.

“Women on the whole are also more likely than men to finish secondary school and attend university. Unfortunately, businesses are not benefiting as much as they could from women’s English skills. Studies have shown that women speak less in meetings and negotiations than men and are interrupted more when they do speak,” EF added.

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Managers also spoke better English than executives or staff, and people in their 20s spoke the best English. Europe had the highest proficiency, while Africa has been improving and Asia has been stagnating.

This eighth edition of the EF EPI is based on test data from more than 1.3 million test takers around the world who took the EF Standard English Test (EF SET).

EF Education First is an international education company that focuses on language, academics, cultural exchange, and educational travel. It was founded in 1965 and has more than 500 schools and offices in more than 50 countries.

Raymond Johnston

Prague-based journalist with over three decades of media experience writing about culture, business, and travel. Folktale and legend expert, and avid photographer. Follow him on Instagram at @raymondjohnston4 or visit his blog magicbohemia.com.

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