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.

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Is doing vocational training in Spain worth it?

The Spanish education system offers a whole host of vocational training courses. The Local looks at what 'formación profesional' is, the pros and cons, and the best (and worst) to study in terms of job prospects and pay.

Is doing vocational training in Spain worth it?

The Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational Training recently presented proposals for an overhaul to its vocational training programmes, known as formación profesional (FP) in Spanish.

FP courses are non-academic vocational courses that allow people to take on more job-focused training, continue studying after high school, go back to school after many years, or even study alongside their careers. 

There are a seemingly limitless variety of courses on offer, with everything from short 50 or 60-hour courses on artisan baking to highly-specialised audio description and subtitling courses taught over several hundred hours.

FP courses can range from a graphic printing technician to an electrician or even a renewable energy specialist. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The planned changes to vocational training in Spain

Medio and Superior

The first thing to understand is that in Spain there are three types, or levels, of FP training and qualifications. The two main ones are Grado Medio and the second Grado Superior.

As you might’ve guessed, the Superior, as it’s known, is of a higher level and can be used to apply directly for university. The Grado Medio can be used to move onto the Superior or start a bachillerato course.

There is also a third type of course, the FP básica, which is available to students who have studied until the third year of ESO or secondary school, but may have found traditional schooling difficult and could be better suited to more vocational training. The FP básica, which is often agreed upon between schools and parents, is a way of allowing students to continue some kind of formal training combined with job-related experience. 

READ ALSO: Spain to grant residency to unauthorised foreigners who complete vocational training

But is it actually worth studying an FP course in Spain? What are the advantages and disadvantages?


  • FP courses are more practical, preparing students for the world of work as opposed to university. This is especially true in ‘dual training’ and the Workplace Training (FCT) modules.
  • Though there’s still a bit of snobbery about non-academic courses, as there is in many countries, often the more specific and rigorous FP training can make people better prepared for the employment market and actually have better job prospects than many university degrees.
  • The training is often very specialised in fields employers are seeking.
  • All the courses (or ‘ciclos‘ as they’re sometimes known) last two years, half the length of a university degree in Spain, which means that FP students begin working (and earning) sooner than university graduates.
  • Some kinds of internships or work experience at industry-relevant companies are almost always included in Grado Superior studies.
  • FP training keeps the door open to university studies later down the road, and often you can transfer credits from your Grado Superior to your university course, cutting down the length.
  • Many FP courses can be taken online. 


  • Salaries are often lower than those of university graduates, especially when starting out in the job market.
  • It can, in some industries, be more difficult to climb up the corporate ladder and get managerial positions.
  • Unfortunately, there can somewhat of a stigma in Spain that FP vocational training is for ‘bad students’ who didn’t get into university.
  • The demand for FP courses is greater than the supply in some parts of Spain. 
  • If you choose to do your FP with a private company, vocational training can be expensive. 

Job prospects and salaries

Analysis from the Vocational Training Observatory (FP) of CaixaBank Dualiza looked at different FP courses and how they translate into the labour market and salaries. The type of FP course, it seems, can have a big impact on employability and salary. While around 70 percent of mechanical manufacturing FP graduates go on to achieve ‘high salary levels’, only 8 percent of Personal Image graduates (those studying courses such as beauty and hairdressing) reach this level, for example.

Based on their data, FP courses with a focus on industrial training are the ones with the best employment prospects. The following stood out from the report:

  • Installation and Maintenance (89.4 percent in work)
  • Mechanical Manufacturing (88 percent)
  • Transport and Vehicle Maintenance (87.2 percent)
  • Electronics (86.1 percent)

In terms of salary prospects, Mechanical Manufacturing, Installation and Maintenance courses came out on top with the highest percentage of graduates in the 4th and 5th quintiles (the top pay brackets), on 69.5 percent and 66.4 percent respectively. 

The worst FP courses in terms of pay were those studying beauty, where 78.3 percent of graduates are in the first and second quintile (with the lowest salaries), followed by Commerce and Marketing (65 percent), Image and Sound (57 percent) and Graphic Design as well as Socio-cultural and Community services (both with 51.8 percent).