Which Asian country speaks the best English?

A safety sign on a construction site in Singapore’s four official languages. Source: Tristan Tan/Shutterstock

THE SEVENTH global English Proficiency Index for 2017 released by English First (EF), an international English Second Language (ESL) education company, ranked Dutch people as having the best English skills in the world out of 80 countries included in the study.

Singapore is no stranger to being the best at things and it turns out the English language is no exception. Its citizens are by far the most proficient at English in Asia if the Index is anything to go by.

While Northern European countries dominated the top five spots, with the Netherlands followed by Sweden, Denmark, and Norway – fifth place was the Little Red Dot, for whom English is one of four official languages along with Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.

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Along with Finland, Luxembourg and South Africa these countries were placed in the “very high” English proficiency category by EF.

The Index was based upon test data from more than one million students completing three versions of the EF Standard English Test in 2016.

Along with only Saudi Arabia and Panama, Singapore and Thailand showed “significant gains” from the previous year’s Index.

Asia’s English proficiency: Blue indicates High, Green indicates Moderate, Yellow indicates Low and Red indicates Very Low. Source: English First

Asia was a mixed bag for English proficiency, with Malaysia and the Philippines ranked 13th and 15th, respectively, above Portugal, Hungary and the Czech Republic – reflecting their “high” proficiency.

India (27), Hong Kong (29), South Korea (30) and Vietnam (34) were all ranked “moderate” among the likes of Greece, Spain and Italy.

The large Asian states of China (36), Japan (37) and Indonesia (39) all had “low” proficiency, while Chinese-speaking Taiwan (40) and Macau (42) along with Thailand (53) were even lower down the pecking order.

Laos was ranked very last at 80, just below Iraq, Libya and Cambodia.

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The study found that overall worldwide, women’s English proficiency is higher than men’s.

“Women in most countries are more educated than men, more likely to complete general-track secondary school rather than vocational-track, and more likely to attend university,” said EF.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people had better English-language skills than older people, and English proficiency correlates strongly with economic and social indicators.

The Middle East was the region with the lowest English proficiency on the planet.

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