Despite popular belief, the level of English in Spain is not as bad as we thought. This is the conclusion drawn from the study, English Proficiency Index, which reveals that the level of English of Spain is above that of Italy, France, and Portugal.
In order to carry out this study, Education First (EF) measured the level of English in different countries around the world through grammar and comprehension tests over a period of three years. Based on the results, EF has created a classification that is divided into 5 levels: Spain is placed in the 3rd level “medium”, with a score of 55.89, above Portugal (55.39), France (54.28) and Italy (54.01). However, the level of English in Spain is far behind that of northern European countries like Sweden (69.91) and Denmark (67.96), who have a level considered “very high”.
English by Regions of Spain
It seems that northern Spain speaks much better English than the south: the Basque Country, Navarra and Galicia appear at the top of the classification with a level of English comparable to countries such as Germany and Poland.
However, the southern regions didn’t fare so well in their English proficiency, with Andalusia scoring 52.03, Castilla – La Mancha at 51.66, Murcia at 50.57 and Extremadura scoring the lowest with 46.13. However, of all the regions in Spain, Extremadura is the only one with a “low level” of English, falling into the same category as countries like Libya (47.22), Syria (42.53) or Ecuador (47.19).
English by gender
Globally, the results of the EPI study show that women have better English proficiency than men, with a medium score of 61.24 compared to 59.94 points for men. However, in this area, Spain does not follow the global trend as the results concluded that men in Spain better language skills than women, with a score of 56.16 compared to 55.69.
This difference may be due to the age group that represents the highest English proficiency in Spain. While in Europe the best English level score is achieved by people in their 20s, in Spain, higher proficiency is found in people in their mid-thirties. This is due in large part to the need to pursue additional language skills after finishing college in order to improve a relatively low level of English and be more competitive in the workplace. At this age many women in Spain are immersed in the upbringing of their children (the average age at which they have their first child is 31 years). The change of focus from career to family of women in their 30’s, may prevent them from spending more time on language training.
English proficiency in the employed vs. the unemployed
It seems to be the case in many of the countries studied, where the average English level of people with a job is lower than the average adult. This surprising finding may be due to the huge incentive to study English for people that are looking for a job. In fact, English is the first skill most people wish to improve when trying to enhance their resumes and secure better job opportunities.
In the case of employees, many choose not to improve their English, unless there is a program for it in their company of employment. These people tend to have less free time and are already working, so it is likely that only the most ambitious decide to devote additional time to improving their language skills.
You can read more about the English Proficiency Index and get resources to learn English abroad in the EF website.