In the last two decades, English has emerged as the common language of an increasingly globalised world, and a study conducted by the international education company Education First (EF) ranked Denmark second only to Sweden in English-language proficiency.
The Swedish-based company published their second English Proficiency Index (EPI) in October, a compilation of data from 1.7 million adults across 54 countries in Europe, Asia, Central and South America.
Sweden and Denmark claimed the two top spots, with the Netherlands, Finland and Norway as the only other countries said to have “very high proficiency” in English.
Proficiency in English is imperative for personal and national success in today’s interconnected world, the study claimed, as the language provides a gateway to international opportunity and personal betterment.
EF found English-proficiency to be positively correlated with the World Bank and the Ineternational Finance Corporation’s 'ease of doing business' score, adding that attracting investment from the UK and the US can hinge on a populace’s ability to speak English.
Anna Leclercq Vrang, a consultant with business advocacy group Dansk Industri, agreed that English proficiency is an important aspect of maintaining international business.
“A large number of companies need candidates who can use English as a working language,” she said.
Vrang added that, while most of these companies are able to fill positions with Danes proficient in English, more can be done to improve Danes’ employment at companies with English as their principal language.
“Children start learning English in the third grade. We’d like to see that start earlier, like in the first grade,” she said. She also advocated for more language assessment in higher education.
“It’s possible now for students to do a number of master's programmes in English without actually being assessed on their language skills. These candidates should be assessed on their English-language skills as well,” she said.
Denmark’s second-place ranking was an improvement from the first EPI released in 2009, in which the country ranked third.
- Study respondents took a series of three online English-language tests, each of which included grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening sections.
- Tests were taken between 2009-2011. Only countries with a minimum of 400 test-takers were included in the final results.
- Test-takers were all self-selecting, i.e. took the test by free will, and therefore results cannot be guaranteed to be representative of a population. Additionally, those without internet access were automatically precluded from participation.
- To create a country’s EPI score, participants’ scores across the three separate tests were normalised, evenly weighted, and then averaged.