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EDUCATION

How do Germans compare to the rest of Europe when it comes to speaking English?

Germany has snagged a top 10 position in an annual study of English proficiency worldwide. But some regions have mastered the language better than others.

How do Germans compare to the rest of Europe when it comes to speaking English?
A pupil learning English at a German school. Photo: DPA

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

Meanwhile, the Bundesrepublik is ranked eighth in Europe, according to the report.

Germany scored a rating of 63.77, marking it out as a country with a “very high” level of English language skills. The top spot went to the Netherlands, which scored 70.27. It was followed by Sweden at number two, Norway, Denmark and Singapore. The average European score was 56.71.

At the bottom end of the scale (not pictured in the table below), Libya was in last place, just behind Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Ivory Coast.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about teaching English in Germany

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

According to the report, countries with the highest English proficiency in Europe “are clustered in Scandinavia, but the number of very high proficiency countries across the region has grown every year since 2017”.

The researchers said that the key to improved English language skills is an “early focus on communication skills, daily exposure to English both in and outside the classroom, and career-specific language instruction in the final years of study”.

The report said out of the Eurozone’s four largest economies, “only Germany speaks English well”.

READ ALSO: 10 mistakes English teachers in Germany are sick of hearing

“France, Spain, and Italy lag behind nearly every other member state – a finding that has been consistent across previous editions of the EF EPI,” said the report's authors.

Overall Germany was placed in the proficiency band “very high”, meaning that the average German tested had an English standard equal to a B2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference.

A total of 13 other countries also had this proficiency band. The high category would be equal to a B1 level of language proficiency.

Where in Germany do people speak the best (and worst) English?

The states home to Germany's big cities came out on top. The region ranked highest was Berlin (with a score of 65.51), which isn't hugely surprising due to the large amount of English spoken in the capital, and its diverse population.

Next was Bavaria, also popular with foreigners, which scored 65.09. It was followed by Hamburg (64.72) and North Rhine-Westphalia (64.63).

The regions that didn't fare so well (shown in green on the map below) were the eastern states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which received a rating of 58.72, and Saxony-Anhalt, with 60.70. Far-western Saarland (60.98) and northern Bremen (61.70) also had a lower rating.

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

When it comes to cities, Düsseldorf in North-Rhine Westphalia scored highest, followed by Berlin and Munich. 

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

There's also a small difference when it comes to gender. German men apparently have a slightly more fluent turn of phrase in the English language than their female counterparts, scoring 64.36 on the index in comparison with 63.25 for women.

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

READ ALSO: 10 ways German completely messes up your English

Member comments

  1. As a retired teacher of German with English as mother tongue I am rather frustrated when Germans speak English which makes it difficult for those learning German (like my students) to practise the language. Even parents of my (now former) students on exchanges wanted to practise their English. Understandable, of course, but frustrating nevertheless! As a fluent German speaker, in areas where I can’t get away with being ‘native’, I am usually taken for Dutch, Belgian or ‘you don’t come from round here’!

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EDUCATION

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

Sweden's Internationella Engelska Skolan (IES) chain has been denied permission to open four new schools in Gothenburg, Huddinge, Norrtälje, and Upplands-Bro, after the schools inspectorate said it had not provided pupil data.

IES chain blocked from opening four new schools

According to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) has denied permission to the chain to open a new planned new school in Norrtälje, north of Stockholm, even though the building that will house it is already half built. The inspectorate has also denied permission to three other schools which the chain had applied to start in 2023. 

In all four cases, the applications have been rejected because the school did not submit the required independent assessment for how many pupils the schools were likely to have. 

Jörgen Stenquist, IES’s deputy chief executive, said that IES has not in the past had to submit this data, as it has always been able to point to the queues of pupils seeking admissions to the school. 

“The fact that Engelska Skolan, as opposed to our competition, has never had the need to hire external companies to do a direct pupil survey is because we have had so many in line,” he told DN.

“In the past, it has been enough that we reported a large queue in the local area. But if the School Inspectorate wants us to conduct targeted surveys and ask parents directly if they want their children to start at our new schools, then maybe we have to start doing that.”

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According to the newspaper, when the inspectorate had in the past asked for pupil predictions, the chain has refused, stating simply “we do not make student forecasts”, which the inspectorate has then accepted. 

However, in this year’s application round, when IES wrote: “We do not carry out traditional interest surveys as we simply have not had a need for this,” the inspectorate treated it as grounds to reject its applications. 

According to DN, other school chain have been complaining to the inspectorate that IES gets favourable treatment and was excused some requirements other chains have to fulfil. 

Liselotte Fredzell, from the inspectorate’s permitting unit, confirmed that the inspectorate was trying to be more even handed. 

“Yes, it is true that we are now striving for a more equal examination of applications. Things may have been getting too slack, and we needed to tighten up.” 

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