Why are Swedes no longer the world’s best at English?

A new survey suggests that Swedes are no longer the world's best non-native English-speakers. But is that cause for concern?

Why are Swedes no longer the world's best at English?
It is Sweden's worst score in more than five years. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The English Proficiency Index (EPI) by global language training company Education First (EF) ranked Sweden second out of 100 countries of non-native English-speakers.

The country lost last year's lead to one of its main rivals for top spot, the Netherlands, while fellow Nordic nations Norway and Denmark, followed by Singapore, completed the top five.

Sweden has never been ranked outside the top five in the nine years the survey has been published, and was number one in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018.

But if you look at the total score – 68.74 this year – it is Sweden's worst performance in more than five years.

In fact, the country saw the second-largest decline out of all European countries with its score falling 1.98 points compared to last year. Luxembourg, in ninth place, had the largest drop, declining by 2.30 points.

Malin Ankarberg, EF's Sweden director, said that perhaps the result indicated that Swedes were becoming somewhat complacent about their level of English, which has been at a high level for years.

But she also said one year of a slightly worse score than normal was not a major concern.

“What we're seeing is a small step back, but perhaps it is needed to make the public aware of the fact that we can do better,” Ankarberg told Swedish news agency TT.

Within Sweden, the Stockholm region performed the best. Photo: EF 

Swedish women outperformed men, with a score of 69.44 compared to the male 67.45.

The EPI report is based on a comparison of English skills measured by testing 2.3 million people in 100 countries, ranking their proficiency from “very high” to “very low”.

Fourteen countries were placed in the “very high” category: The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, South Africa, Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Belgium and Croatia. The average European score was 56.71.


Member comments

  1. Seems like the survey is a joke. Poland is in the category of ‘very high’ proficiency? Trying to communicate in English was the biggest thing I struggled with in Poland!

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