How do Germans compare to the rest of Europe when it comes to speaking English?

Germany has snagged a top 10 position in an annual study of English proficiency worldwide. But some regions have mastered the language better than others.

How do Germans compare to the rest of Europe when it comes to speaking English?
A pupil learning English at a German school. Photo: DPA

The English Proficiency Index (EPI) by global language training company Education First (EF) ranked Germany in tenth position out of 100 countries of non-native English-speakers.

Meanwhile, the Bundesrepublik is ranked eighth in Europe, according to the report.

Germany scored a rating of 63.77, marking it out as a country with a “very high” level of English language skills. The top spot went to the Netherlands, which scored 70.27. It was followed by Sweden at number two, Norway, Denmark and Singapore. The average European score was 56.71.

At the bottom end of the scale (not pictured in the table below), Libya was in last place, just behind Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Ivory Coast.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about teaching English in Germany

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

According to the report, countries with the highest English proficiency in Europe “are clustered in Scandinavia, but the number of very high proficiency countries across the region has grown every year since 2017”.

The researchers said that the key to improved English language skills is an “early focus on communication skills, daily exposure to English both in and outside the classroom, and career-specific language instruction in the final years of study”.

The report said out of the Eurozone’s four largest economies, “only Germany speaks English well”.

READ ALSO: 10 mistakes English teachers in Germany are sick of hearing

“France, Spain, and Italy lag behind nearly every other member state – a finding that has been consistent across previous editions of the EF EPI,” said the report's authors.

Overall Germany was placed in the proficiency band “very high”, meaning that the average German tested had an English standard equal to a B2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference.

A total of 13 other countries also had this proficiency band. The high category would be equal to a B1 level of language proficiency.

Where in Germany do people speak the best (and worst) English?

The states home to Germany's big cities came out on top. The region ranked highest was Berlin (with a score of 65.51), which isn't hugely surprising due to the large amount of English spoken in the capital, and its diverse population.

Next was Bavaria, also popular with foreigners, which scored 65.09. It was followed by Hamburg (64.72) and North Rhine-Westphalia (64.63).

The regions that didn't fare so well (shown in green on the map below) were the eastern states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which received a rating of 58.72, and Saxony-Anhalt, with 60.70. Far-western Saarland (60.98) and northern Bremen (61.70) also had a lower rating.

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

When it comes to cities, Düsseldorf in North-Rhine Westphalia scored highest, followed by Berlin and Munich. 

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

There's also a small difference when it comes to gender. German men apparently have a slightly more fluent turn of phrase in the English language than their female counterparts, scoring 64.36 on the index in comparison with 63.25 for women.

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

READ ALSO: 10 ways German completely messes up your English

Member comments

  1. As a retired teacher of German with English as mother tongue I am rather frustrated when Germans speak English which makes it difficult for those learning German (like my students) to practise the language. Even parents of my (now former) students on exchanges wanted to practise their English. Understandable, of course, but frustrating nevertheless! As a fluent German speaker, in areas where I can’t get away with being ‘native’, I am usually taken for Dutch, Belgian or ‘you don’t come from round here’!

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime