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Three-fourths of the world’s English speakers spoke another language first

By Lily Kuo
AsiaPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

English has yet to be displaced as the international language of commerce. Countries with higher exports, greater ease of doing business, and more funds dedicated to research and development report higher levels of proficiency in English, according to Education First’s English Proficiency Index (PDF, pgs. 12-18).

But that doesn’t mean Americans or Britons dominate these categories. Three-fourths of all English speakers spoke another language before learning English, according to EF. And more multinational corporations have mandated that all or most communication at work be in English. That includes France’s Airbus (according to its website), Finland’s Nokia (a woman who answered the media contact line in Finland confirmed—but in halting English), the Japanese internet company Rakuten and retailer Fast Retailing Co.

This map shows how countries ranked on EF’s index, released last year. Sweden ranked the highest, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, and Norway. In Asia, the most English proficient countries were Singapore and Malaysia. In Latin America and the Middle East, Argentina and Iran scored the highest. The lowest ranked was Libya. The index is based on data from about 1.7 million EF English proficiency tests taken between 2009 and 2011.

Education First

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