Netherlands ranked first in non-native English proficiency index

16 November 2016

The Netherlands has been named the country with the highest English proficiency among non-native speaking countries according to the EF English Proficiency Index. The Netherlands ranks first of the 72 countries for which data was collected, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Ranking English language proficiency

Produced by Education First, the EF Proficiency Index ranks countries and territories by using five proficiency bands: very high, high, moderate, low and very low.  Acknowledging that it is only an indicator and based on the “average” person surveyed, the goal behind the initiative is to offer insight into the overall level of English language skills in non-native countries and regions.

The index is composed based on the results of over 950.000 adults from Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa who took an online English language test in 2015. Possible explanations as to why the Dutch have such a high level of English include: the similarities between the Dutch and English languages, the need to communicate with other countries to continue to operate competitively in the global service economy, that Dutch television heavily incorporates English language programmes with subtitles instead of dubbing and that knowledge of the English language is seen as a necessity and begins in early education. 

Level of English and correlations

The EF Proficiency Index executive summary goes on to describe the reason for producing the report. Based on previous research, countries whose native language is not English with better  overall English language skills tend to correlate with higher incomes and better qualities of life. They also emphasise how crucial knowledge of English as a second language is in science, technology and the spread of innovative ideas.

Reservations regarding EP English Proficiency Index

There are of course critiques associated with the production of the index. For one, the data is only collected digitally, meaning that users must have access to the website in order to participate, possibly skewing  the profile of the “average” person. Furthermore, the test only examines a participant’s “passive knowledge” of a language (listening and reading, not speaking or writing) raising questions about how accurately this reflects language proficiency.

AUC and English language education

At Amsterdam University College, English is the main language of communication both in and out of the classroom. The common language brings together an international community of students and staff composed of more than 60 different nationalities. With many activities and opportunities in English, the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, is an extremely welcoming place for students from all around the world to study, work and research in an environment with a high level of English proficiency. 

Published by  Amsterdam University College