This year the results of Portugal were better than the results of Sweden (8th), Finland (9th) and Croatia (10th), according to the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) report - which analyses data from two million non-English speakers in 112 countries and regions.

In a ranking led by the Netherlands for the second consecutive year, Portugal is only behind Austria (2nd), Denmark (3rd), Singapore (4th), Norway (5th) and Belgium (6th). In southern Europe the Portuguese are still the best English speakers, leaving behind Greece (19th), France (30th), Spain (33rd) and Italy (35th).

The 625 points achieved by the Portuguese is the best record ever for Portugal in this ranking, after two years ago the country moved into the group of countries with "high proficiency".

In addition Porto is, for the third year in row, the Portuguese city where the best English is spoken, Coimbra is in second and Lisbon occupies the third place.

On the opposite side of the ranking worldwide, in the last places are the Democratic Republic of Congo (110th), South Sudan (111th) and Yemen (112th).

“Despite the drop in the number of travellers around the world, English continues to make communication easier in addition to enabling new ways of working. This year's EF EPI is more distributed than ever, providing valuable information for governments to assess their language learning policies and highlight strategic areas for improvement,” said Kate Bell, author of the EF English Proficiency Index.

“The EF EPI is based on the results of the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world's first free standardised English test. The EF SET has been used all over the world by schools, companies and governments for large-scale testing”, according to a note sent to The Portugal News.

Men better than women in English

In addition, for the first time, the study reveals that worldwide men speak English better than women. Excepting Asia and Africa, where women are still better than men, all regions of the world follow the same trend: women's English remains the same as men's English improves.

In Portugal, men managed to get a better classification than women. Even so, Portuguese women this year already have a great level of English with 621 points, a value higher than last year and well above the average for men around the world (508 points).

Regarding age groups, Portuguese young people between 21 and 25 years old continue to be the ones with best English skills according to the report (EPI) that shows the relationship between fluency in English and purchasing power, quality of life and innovation.

However, in spite of this positive correlation between fluency in English and purchasing power, Portugal is one of the few countries with a “very high” level of English proficiency, but below the correlation line with purchasing power.

English at work

Globally, in most jobs, people have lower average levels of English than they would need to perform better in their jobs. According to the study, this means wasted time, lack of communication and ineffective knowledge sharing.

On average, the three industries where English is spoken better are: consulting with a Moderate level of English spoken followed by Information Technology (Moderate) and Engineering (Moderate).

Then, consumer goods (Moderate), food (Low), logistics (Low), hospitality (Low), aviation (Low), retail (Low), construction (Low), pharmaceuticals (Low), telecommunications (Low), automotive (Low), mining and energy (Low), banking and finance (Low), electronic products (Low), chemicals (Low), manufacturing (Very Low), insurance (Very Low), and education (Very low). To end the list, also with a very low level are the health industry and the government sector.

According to the note: “Marketing professionals are usually those who speak English best, but do not go beyond a moderate level, the same happens with law, human resources and information technology”.

With a very low level of English, there are usually professionals who work in the areas of Operations, Administration and Maintenance. “When professionals do not have the English necessary to get involve into new roles, their career development is compromised”, concludes the report.


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins