Which country has the best English proficiency in the world?
Source: Shutterstock

Windmills, tulips, cheese, canals and clogs are all things we associate with the Netherlands.

Mastery of the English language might now have to be added to the list.

The seventh global English Proficiency Index for 2017 released by English First (EF), an international English Second Language (ESL) education company, ranked Dutch people as having the best English skills in the world out of 80 countries included in the study.

The Index is based upon test data from more than one million students completing three versions of the EF Standard English Test in 2016.

Northern European countries dominated the top five spots, with the Netherlands followed by Sweden, Denmark, and Norway – fifth place however was Southeast Asian city-state Singapore, for whom English is one of four official languages along with Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.

Along with Finland, Luxembourg and South Africa these countries were placed in the “very high” English proficiency category by EF.

Along with only Saudi Arabia and Panama, Singapore and Thailand showed “significant gains” from the previous year’s Index.

A safety sign on a construction site in Singapore’s four official languages. Source: Tristan Tan/Shutterstock

Asia was a mixed bag for English proficiency, with Malaysia and the Philippines ranked 13th and 15th, respectively, above Portugal, Hungary and the Czech Republic – reflecting their “high” proficiency.

India (27), Hong Kong (29), South Korea (30) and Vietnam (34) were all ranked “moderate” among the likes of Greece, Spain and Italy.

The large Asian states of China (36), Japan (37) and Indonesia (39) all had “low” proficiency, while Chinese-speaking Taiwan (40) and Macau (42) along with Thailand (53) were even lower down the pecking order.

Laos was ranked very last at 80, just below Iraq, Libya and Cambodia.

Asia’s English proficiency: Blue indicates High, Green indicates Moderate, Yellow indicates Low and Red indicates Very Low. Source: English First

The study found that overall women’s English proficiency is higher than men’s. “Women in most countries are more educated than men, more likely to complete general-track secondary school rather than vocational-track, and more likely to attend university,” said EF.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people had better English-language skills than older people, and English proficiency correlates strongly with economic and social indicators.

The Middle East was the region with the lowest English proficiency on the planet.

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