Where the UAE ranks in best English speakers global index 2020

Middle-eastern countries improve as a whole but Netherlands tops the rankings

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The UAE has moved up four places in the world's largest ranking of countries and regions by their English second language skills, from 70 to 66 out of 100.

The Kingdom's enhanced performance is part of a global improvement in the proficiency of English speaking around the world, the index has found.

Training provider EF analysed the results of more than two million adults who took English language tests last year.

Its intention was to analyse where English proficiency was developing around the world.

It said the ability to speak English was significant not just to gain a competitive advantage, but for the connections it enables.

The best English speakers were adults in their late twenties, while managers were the most likely to speak English. The gender gap was also narrowing, with men catching up with women.

This table shows the top and bottom 10 countries in the 2020 index.


Europe ahead

The Dutch were the world’s best non-native English speakers, the analysis found.

In the Netherlands, more than 80 per cent of males and females spoke English.

Scandinavian countries were also strong performers due to daily exposure to English in schools.

Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway were identified as “cluster” nations where English was thriving.

View of a canal in Amsterdam with a woman on a bicycle on April 12, 2017. (Photo by Aurore Belot / AFP)
The Dutch re renowned for their penchant for cycling - and for speaking really good English. AFP

Of Europe’s four largest economies, only Germany speaks English well with France, Spain and Italy lagging behind.

The report also found eastern Europe was struggling to keep up with the west, citing Turkey as an example where English proficiency has declined over the past five years.

In general, however, the index found Europe had the highest English proficiency of any region by a wide margin.

Here's the Europe top 10:


Middle East poised for change

It said levels of English in the Middle East are turning a corner.

“English proficiency in the Middle East remains the lowest in the world by a wide margin but the regional average rose significantly compared to last year’s report,” it said.

“Government efforts to improve English proficiency in the Middle East are delivering results. The region may be poised for a change.”

Here's the middle-eastern top 10:


And this table shows how the Middle East has performed strongly as a region relative to its 2019 indexing.


Asia has room for improvement

English proficiency in Asia remained constant in the past five years. But as it transitions from manufacturing to knowledge-driven growth it will require better English, the report said.

Here's the top 10:


The international language

Publishing the report, EF said: “English is the principal language of international collaboration, and as in previous editions of the report, we found correlations between English and various measures of investment in R&D.

"This finding resonates with recent research showing that companies with managers from many countries earn more revenue from innovation than their less diverse competitors.

"English-speaking teams are able to attract more diverse talent and access ideas from around the world. They are also more likely to collaborate internationally within their own organisations."