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Swiss speak only mediocre English

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This content was published on November 12, 2014 - 17:44
swissinfo.ch and agencies

When it comes to speaking English, the Swiss are left stuttering by their German and Austrian neighbours, according to an international language proficiency study. Scandinavians come top of the class.

Switzerland had improved its absolute score for the third consecutive year, but because other countries had improved more, it fell two places to 18th out of 63 countries – or 15th out of 24 European countries – surveyed for the fourth edition of the EF English Proficiency Index.

The studyExternal link, released on Wednesday by international education company EF Education First, ranked the English skills of 750,000 non-native speakers around the world. Denmark topped the list, followed by the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland and Austria, who were all classed as “very good”.

North African and Middle Eastern adults found themselves near the bottom.

The top ten countries in English proficiency are all European, although notable poor performers include Italy (27th) and France (29th), who have been overtaken by Spain (20th) and Portugal (21st).

Economic importance

The authors note that, worldwide, most countries with strong English skills continue to improve, while countries with weaker abilities are often stagnating or declining. 

The report also concludes that English proficiency remains a key indicator of a nation’s economic competitiveness, with strong correlations between English proficiency and income, quality of life, ease of doing business and international trade.

Also, women speak better English than men worldwide and in nearly every country surveyed, including Switzerland.

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