Belgians rank sixth most competent English speakers in the world
Belgians have been ranked the world's sixth most competent non-native English speakers for the second year in a row, which is likely to reinforce Belgium's well-earned reputation for multilingualism.
According to the latest annual 'English Proficiency Index' compiled by Education First (EF), an international education company, Belgium also ranks fifth in Europe for its citizenry's mastery of the English language.
From first to fifth, the countries with the highest levels of English were the Netherlands, Singapore, Austria, Norway, and Denmark. Belgium was also just one of 13 countries to fall under the study's list of nations deemed to possess a 'Very High Proficiency' in English.
The study further found that, in general, Dutch-speaking Belgians speak better English than their French-speaking compatriots, while the Belgian city most proficient in English was Bruges, followed by Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, and then, in fifth place, Brussels.
Among other interesting findings, the EF study — which involved conducting 2.1 million English-language tests across 111 countries and regions — noted that, although men speak better English than women in the majority of countries surveyed, "these trends [nevertheless] appear to be driven by biased education systems or unequal access to education".
Moreover, the study found that adults around the world are making concerted efforts to improve their levels of English, but that, rather worryingly, for the youngest cohort (18 to 20-year-olds), proficiency is declining, with "their skill loss since the start of the pandemic being particularly striking".
Such a decline was especially pronounced in Latin America, where "young people have seen their scores fall significantly since 2020", and "lengthy school closures during the pandemic seem the most likely cause."
The report also found that there is "potential for growth" in English-speaking ability within the EU as well, and singled out France, Spain and Italy as three countries that "lag behind their neighbours" in terms of overall English-speaking ability.
© BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN