Which nationality does best at learning English?

According to the British Council, by 2020 English will be spoken by 2 billion people – over a quarter of the world’s population. It’s the one truly global language – with non-native English speakers far outnumbering those of us who use it as a first language.

Which countries are most successful at teaching English to their citizens? And which trail behind?

The international education company Education First ranks countries according to adults’ English language skills.

I’ve had a look at the most recent list, produced in October 2018.  Which country comes top, and which bottom?

The answer is:

Top: Sweden

Bottom: Libya

It’s no secret that the Scandinavians speak excellent English. But what about other European nationalities?  And does the EF list reflect my experience in hosting English learners at English Language Homestay Scotland, and as an online English teacher?

To date we have hosted homestay visitors from: France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Russia and Oman. As it happens, our next visitors are from Sweden, but speak Swedish as a second language.

Online I teach students from countries including France, China, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and Greece.

We talk a lot about how they learn English, and how English is taught at school in their countries.

My impressions are confirmed by Education First.

German schools teach English well. They’re helped by the fact that English and German are in the same family of languages – and that English is grammatically easier than German.

France, Spain and Italy have been less successful at producing good English speakers. That may be about to change though.  I’ve been interested to learn from some of our Spanish students that Spain has recently made important changes to its English teaching methods, and that young Spanish children now speak better English than older ones.

So what are those countries’ Education First rankings?


SPAIN – 32

ITALY – 34


This is out of 88 countries.

If you have been let down by your school’s English lessons, and need to improve your English, you’re very welcome to stay with us.  With full English immersion in a friendly family, as many 1:1 English lessons as you need (general and business), and trips and activities in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.  I hope to see you soon!

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