ENGLISH IS THE most widely spoken language in the world. And of the roughly 1.5bn speakers globally, the vast majority speak it as a second language. So where are the world’s best non-native English speakers? According to a new report by EF Education First, an international education company, Northern Europeans are the most fluent (the Netherlands tops the rankings, followed by Sweden, Norway and Denmark). Middle Easterners are the least proficient (Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia all rank near the bottom).
These results are not comprehensive, however. Nor are they representative. EF’s index is based on the results of a free online test taken by 2.3m volunteers in 100 countries. Only people with an internet connection and time and willingness to take a test are included in the sample, which means the results are biased towards richer countries interested in English. As a result, many African countries do not have enough test-takers—at least 400—to be included in the index.