I have stumbled across a brand new study that examined the average English proficiency of adults in more than 60 countries that are not English native speaking (obviously).
There are five levels, ranging from very high – high – moderate – low – to very low proficiency. As was to be expected, Europe takes the cake, the seven countries that have very high proficiency in English are all European ones, starting with Denmark, The Netherlands and the other Scandinavian states on top, followed by a quite surprising Poland – and, on the seventh spot: Austria!
This surprised me quite a lot to be honest, I always had the impression that the average Austrian’s English-speaking capability was not that good at all. Although, I have to admit that several people who have travelled to Austria – even to the more rural spots – have assured me they got by fine without knowing any German. Maybe things have changed since I left?
Similarly surprising was the ranking of Japan on place 26 with moderate proficiency. I also thought that this was a bit overenthusiastic, but I have to admit that many Japanese understand English very well, and their grammar is excellent – they just don’t speak English. Interestingly the study states that not much had changed in Japan in the last seven years, when the first such study was conducted.
Of course, these kind of studies always have to be taken with a grain of salt. With this one, you need lots of grains: Nowhere on the site that I linked to above does it say how “proficiency” is measured, and what it takes to have a very high or very low one. Also they said they only tested adults (over 19 years of age) who had internet access (which accounts for a complete lack of central and south African countries) and who were somehow interested in learning (more) English already.
Anyway, it’s fun to check out this page (click on the spotlights to see each country’s individual score) and there is even a way to participate in the test – which takes only 50 minutes… Maybe the right thing to do on a slow weekend?