Top Countries Learning English As A Second Language Ep 588

A photo of diverse English language learners taking an English proficiency test. Today, we’ll look at some of the latest data on English learning worldwide and discuss the findings.

📝 Author: Hilary

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💬 2850 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 15 min

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English Is Absolutely Everywhere - People Are Learning English All Over The World

Today let’s talk about how people are learning English all across the world. Who’s learning it and why? And in which countries do people learn more English? Who are the best and worst at learning to speak the English language?

✔Lesson transcript:

I’m going to make sure that you learn some very important things about who is learning English. It’s a great international language, and if you want to communicate with more people, it’s essential. Is it essential to communicate with more people in your daily life? Yes! Will learning [English]( ) help you do this? It will! And you know what? There are some incredible statistics on how many people around the world speak English.

There are some interesting things in the recently published English Proficiency Index. Reviewing this report will give you a lot of good vocabulary. I’ll be using the names of different countries and I’ll speak about different languages as well. So this is good practice for what those countries and languages are called in English.

An excellent percentage of the world’s population learn English, so it’s no wonder that one of the most popular languages out there is "English."

Most Unusual Words:

  • Ubiquitous: Everywhere, in many places at the same time.
  • Framework: A basic system or set of ideas that helps in planning or decision-making.
  • Culture: The customs, beliefs, arts, and way of life of a group of people.
  • Proficiency: Being very good at something, having a high level of knowledge or skill.
  • Incredible: Hard to believe because it's very surprising or amazing.
  • Contribution: Something that you give or do to help achieve something or make it successful.

Most common 2 word phrases:

Learning English3
The World3
You Can2
Different Countries2
Talk About2
English Proficiency2
Native Language2

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The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: Top Countries Learning English As A Second Language

Hi there. Today let's talk about how people are learning English all across the world. Who's learning it and why? And in which countries do people learn more English?

There is a report published yearly, which shows data collected on all of this. Let's have a look at this report today and review some of the data. What interesting stuff does this report tell us about people's habits learning English, and who's learning English? So today in this podcast, I'll give you some really good vocabulary. I'll be using the names of different countries and I'll speak about different languages as well. So this is good practice for what those countries and languages are called in English.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

Learn great vocabulary while hearing about the EF English Language Proficiency Report

So if you listen to this podcast, you'll learn this really good vocabulary automatically as we go, and especially if you listen to it a few times so that the words can stick in your mind.

So the report I'm talking about is called the EF English Proficiency Report. I'd never heard of this before.

But it was really interesting and they collect their data through offering people a free online test where you can check your standard of English. I'll give you the web address for this test. I'll give you the link for this test at the end of the podcast so that you can try it yourself and make a contribution to next year's data.

Why not take the English language proficiecy test yourself?

The test takes about 15 minutes and it gives you a result based on the C E F R framework. So that's the Common European Framework of Reference for assessing language proficiency, how good you are at a language, and it's the one which has a scale from A1 to C2.

I did take the test, just because I'm recommending it to you, so I could see what it was like. And ooh, just also to check that someone like me should be teaching you English. Well, I'm pleased to say I got 100%, but that's hardly surprising because English is my native language. I'm sure you would get 100% if you took such a test in your native language too. But just good to check.

We don't want 'ubiquitous English'!

So a disclaimer if you like, before I go on to talk about English proficiency and levels of English in different countries of the world. I love helping you with your English language learning. I think about it as though you're going to learn English anyway. I'm just trying to make easier for you something that you would be doing anyway. It certainly isn't my goal or my wish that everybody in the world speaks English.

That might mean a threat to people's native languages. Languages are hugely important. They're parts of our culture and our identity. So it's not that I want languages to be lost and everyone to speak English, not at all. I think it's important for all of us, even us native English speakers to learn other languages.

Je suis dans un processus pour apprendre le Français. Ce n'est pas un fait accompli, mais je travaille lentement et sûrement sur cet objectif!

Speaking English does bring advantages

While I'm making this point, English is the language that many people want to learn. It has certain advantages. For one thing, you can communicate with more people, if you speak English - we'll talk about how many in a minute. Speaking good English helps your job prospects. You can watch a series on Netflix if you speak English - or it's easier to do that. The move towards speaking English is a global one. It's happening everywhere, whether we want it to or not. So as I say, my goal is to help you with something that you want to learn anyway, I'm just trying to make it a bit more pleasurable and a bit easier for you.

What does the EF English Proficiency Report say?

So this EF English Proficiency Report puts together data from all over the world about English language learning. So let's sample the data and look at the report. The report makes the point that a worldwide 'lingua franca' is necessary. This explains why there are 2.5 billion English speakers in the world, but only about 400 million native English speakers, so people for whom English is the first language. So there's a lot more people speak English as a second or third language than there are speak English as a first language.


A photo of the a small globe of the earth in the palm of a hand. Today, we’re going to have a look at the English-learning statistics in the world.

©️ Adept English 2022

English as 'lingua franca'

People are learning English because it's a useful communication tool for them. They're able to speak with lots of other non-native English speakers. So a 'lingua franca', that's L I N G U A F R A N C A. And 'lingua franca' means a common language, just as I've described.

So 2.5 billion English speakers and only 400 million native speakers. The report makes the point that other languages also operate as a 'lingua franca'. For example, Spanish and Arabic are useful languages to communicate with, in different parts of the world. So the lingua franca is not always English.

The report makes the point that it's senior levels in industry, english is a key requirement. It's hard to do a senior role without speaking English in many large companies.

And English is a key requirement as is mobility. ' Mobility', M O B I L I T Y means 'you're willing to move around', probably moving countries. And the adjective, we would say you were willing to be 'mobile', M O B I L E. That's also what you call your phone too - just means you can move around with it.

So it's also easier to be mobile and willing to work in different countries, if you can speak English, if you can speak a lingua franca.

English gives access to information

If you can understand English, you have access to all kinds of things online, particularly to research, which is often published in English. You can access knowledge and expertise much more easily. One of the things that I try to do in the podcasts is bring to you pieces of interesting research, which have been published in English, and I try to make them accessible to you. I try to put them into easier English.

So part of my mission is to make some really interesting research, more accessible to English language learners. One of the things I really love about the internet is how we're able to read research reports for ourselves. More than at any time in history we're able to learn and we can be self-taught at things. We can follow our interests.

Who's learning English?

Other interesting points to note from this report, English language proficiency, P R O F I C I E N C Y. That is a noun, and it means 'how good you are' at something. English language proficiency is increasing all across the world. The level of English is getting better. On average, men are learning it more quickly than women. And people over 30 years old are quicker at learning English than those under 30, which I found interesting. I think that's really encouraging to language learners who are over 30 years old.

Language learning may be more automatic when you're younger, but it certainly doesn't mean that you can't learn a language when you're older! That's a double negative. It means it's very doable when you're older, too.

On average, people who live in cities tend to have a higher level of English. That makes sense. They've probably got better access to education and they're probably in a more metropolitan environment, so the mix of people and different languages is going to be greater in the big cities of the world.

Listening Lessons

English proficiency, country by country?

And the report displays maps, shaded in different colors, indicating the level of English spoken in each country. The maps ignore countries where English is the native language, of course.

And this data, this map data shows quite predictably that Europe has the highest level of English language proficiency. And looking at their map of Europe, as you would expect, and I've commented upon this before, the countries where the highest levels of English are spoken are well known to us. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg. If you're an English speaker, you know this really well already. The English spoken in these countries is embarrassingly good.

Any attempt at their language is often waved aside. Ich kann ein Bißchen Deutsch sprechen? No, they don't want that. They want to speak English to us and their English will be better than my German, that's pretty certain! In the Netherlands, and as I found in Switzerland this summer, they even seem to know you're a native English speaker before you open your mouth! How do they do that? I'm not sure. Perhaps it was my hat!

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But two surprises for me on the map of Europe showing English language proficiency. Portuguese people are very good at speaking English and so too are Croatians. I didn't know this. I'd love to visit both countries anyway, not just because there's a high level of English. But if you're in Portugal or Croatia and you're listening to Adept English, then please share us with your friends and family, now that I know you're avid English speakers.

In Asia, it's Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, where there's most English spoken. And there are also many countries where not much English is spoken at all. In South America, Argentina is by far the country with the highest level of English. Why is Argentina the country with the most English language speakers? I don't know. But if you're an Argentinian English language learner, please let us know. We'd be really pleased to hear from you.

In Africa, South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria speak the most English. I guess you would expect that as English is one of the official languages in Nigeria, but there are lots of other languages spoken in Nigeria too, like Igbo and Yoruba. English is one of two official languages in Kenya, Swahili being the other language.

And in South Africa there are 11 official languages, one of which is English. English is only the fourth official language, the fourth most spoken official language. Zulu, Xhoza and Afrikaans are still more popular than English. English is spoken much less in the Middle East, so it may be true that Arabic is still the lingua franca amongst these countries. If you live there, tell me what you think about that. Let us know.

But certainly the countries in this region of the world where most English is spoken, interestingly, are Iran, I R A N and Lebanon.

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Impact of COVID 19 pandemic on English speaking

The report ends by talking about things like the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. Commenting that so many things went online, it no longer mattered what your geographical location in the world was, but a common language perhaps became more important.

So this and globalization means there is even more reason for that lingua franca. While at the same time, the pandemic made everyone stay local and seemed to divide the world up into separate countries again, in many ways.

I hope you found this podcast interesting in its own right, but it also gives you practice with the names of countries and some languages as well. So listen to this podcast a number of times until the vocabulary sticks in your mind.

Oh, and that link to the test, - that's forward slash '/ e p i. So

(Page all the way down to the 'Start your test now' button)


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at



The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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