How well are the people of the world speaking English?

I recently attended the launch of the EF English Proficiency Index 2013 (full PDF report here) in Montevideo (left), where participants were told that Uruguay is still in the 'low proficiency' bracket and has dropped in points (from 53.42 to 51.49) since the EPI was last published in 2012. It was not included in the first EF EPI published in 2011.

The 2013 edition of the EFP ranks 60 countries and territories by adult English proficiency, was produced with data collected from 750,000 test-takers and is a report that attempts to rank average level of English skills amongst adults (Wikipedia).  Most of the data is collected by EF from the free placement test taken by people on their website.  As such, the report has been criticised for a lack of representative sampling in each country. As such, this makes the EPI an online survey rather than a statistically valid evaluation (Wikipedia). When we asked about the data at the launch in Montevideo, EF were open about this and details about data collection is also clearly mentioned in the report on page 42.

Despite the above, it has been very interesting to see just how much attention is being paid to the results. In Uruguay, the 'decline in English' in the country stated in the report made the major newspapers and the same seems to be true in many other places - it's been featured in the New York Times, the World Bulletin, the Bangkok Post, the Swedish Wire, and the Wall Street Journal, and I'm sure many other periodicals, newspapers and websites. It's all fabulous marketing for EF, who have found a way of delivering information that the world wants to know, and which no other organisation is trying to provide. 


  1. I am currently in Vietnam doing some large scale training project and this morning in an opening speech at one of the iterations of said training, the ex-director of the project, and now merely a consultant to it, referenced Vietnam's rise in this (he didn;t actually tell us the source, just that the country had moved from Very Low to Low to Moderate. It's interesting to see where this all came from. Thanks.

  2. Whilst interesting, the report is badly flawed and very much needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Analysis of the EF Report

    Typically many newspapers have taken it at face value because analysing it would require just too much effort.

  3. Interesting to see the influence this report is having, Andy - thanks for dropping by.

    I agree the report is flawed, but it does seem to be the best indicator that exists for measuring this at the moment - if this stays the same then we'll find ourselves in the same situation next year and the year after, etc. with the report being criticised, but there being no other alternative.

    I think it does make very easy copy for newspapers and is also being used for political means too, despite its flaws. It's a bit like someone using one of those 'Top 10 films' surveys in Facebook and basing investment in the cinema for next year on that.

    Thanks for sharing your analysis of the report, John - very interesting indeed


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