Spaniards have second lowest level of English in EU

Despite Spain’s popularity with English-speaking holidaymakers and home buyers, its people continue to have one of the worst levels of English in Europe according to the 2022 English Proficiency Index.

Spaniards have second lowest level of English in EU
Spaniards have never ranked high for their English level. Image by Freepik

A study conducted by language school empire English First in their latest English Proficiency Index found that the Spanish rank number 33 out of 111 countries, but are way behind other nations in Europe, as they came in at number 25 out of 35.

In fact, Spaniards have the second lowest level of English in the whole of the EU, with only the French ranked worse. 

This is in stark contrast to other EU countries such as the Netherlands (number 1 in the world), Austria (3rd), Belgium (4th) and Nordic countries Norway (4th), Denmark (5th) and Sweden (7th).

Spain even fell behind other southern European countries – Portugal came at number 9, Greece at number 14 and Italy at number 32. 

READ ALSO: Why are the Spanish ‘so bad’ at speaking English?

In terms of how the Iberian nation’s level compares on the global scale, Spain maintains a medium level of English proficiency, in the same range as Ukraine, South Korea and Costa Rica. 

People with this mid-level English are able to carry out simple tasks in English such as understanding song lyrics and writing professional e-mails about subjects they’re familiar with, but may have problems with more complex conversations and understanding films that haven’t been dubbed.  

“Despite making a little progress, the English level of Spaniards remains at the moderate levels where it has stayed for many years, without showing great improvements,” said the director General of EF Spain, Xavier Martí.

“The data confirms that the educational model presents deficiencies in language learning”. 

Which regions in Spain have the best and worst levels of English?

The study revealed that Galicians have the best level of English among Spaniards, followed by Catalans, Basques and then those from Cantabria, which all had above-average levels of English compared with the rest of the country.

On the other end of the scale, those from Extremadura had the worst level of English. Only slightly better were people from La Rioja, Castilla-La Mancha and Murcia, who all had levels below the national average.

When it comes to cities, people in the Galician city of Vigo had the best level of English, followed by regional neighbour A Coruña, Barcelona and then Bilbao. Madrid is in fifth place.

In terms of the cities with the worst levels of English, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria took top spot, only slightly above the cities of Murcia, Valladolid and the other Canary capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How Spain plans to fix poor reading and math levels among pupils

After Spanish school children fell in the latest international PISA rankings, the Spanish government has unveiled plans to bolster maths and reading comprehension for millions of them across the country.

How Spain plans to fix poor reading and math levels among pupils

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced a plan to bolster the country’s educational system.

Speaking at a Socialist (PSOE) event in A Coruña over the weekend, Sánchez stated that Spain’s Ministry of Education, headed by Pilar Alegría, is committing to a ‘reinforcement plan’ to improve maths skills and reading comprehension among Spanish students, subjects widely discussed among parents and teachers following a poor showing in the latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report compiled by the OECD.

The plan will benefit 4.7 million students across Spain and be backed up by a budget of over €500 million spread across the duration of the current legislature, although the exact amount has not yet been finalised.

It will principally be aimed at eight school years, covering pupils from the third year of primary school up to 4th ESO, the fourth and final year of secondary school before students decide to study for university entrance (known as ‘bachillerato’) or take on more vocational training study type programmes (known as ‘formación profesional’ or FP).

READ ALSO: Is doing vocational training in Spain worth it?

“We are not going to stop, especially in education. In these times in which we find ourselves, it is important that we are aware, in the light of the OECD reports, that despite the efforts of students and teachers, there are subjects that are difficult to crack. And that’s why the government is going to make a plan for all the young people who are studying in our country today,” Sánchez said.

The Prime Minister added that the government would work “hand in hand with the educational community” to implement the plan.

In order to achieve this, the government aims to reduce the number of students per classroom in maths classes during school hours, from 25 to around 12 or 14 per class. Outside of school hours, extra teachers will be used to support students having difficulties, and a teacher training plan will be implemented to help teachers improve their maths lessons.

Spain’s opposition, the Partido Popular (PP), responded to the plans by criticising the “shortcomings” of the education system. PP sources told laSexta the party believes the struggles of Spanish students in maths and reading is “the responsibility of a socialist educational model that enshrines the law of minimum effort.”


The PP also called for Sánchez to show to “willingness to discuss with the opposition and regions to ‘improve the system.'”

In the PISA rankings released in 2023, Spain received its worst result in the report since 2000. However, there was an overall global downward trend in scores in the 2023 edition, so despite falling in the rankings Spain was actually closer to both the OECD and EU averages than ever before. Education experts put the downward trend around the world down to a post-pandemic slump.