The English Proficiency Index (EPI) from global language training company Education First (EF) put Denmark behind only the Netherlands for non-native English proficiency.
Danes topped the list back in 2014 but were topped yet again this year by the Dutch. Unlike last year’s ranking, however, the Danes at least have bragging rights over their friendly rivals the Swedes, who were ranked third.
Denmark's overall score of 71.15 out of a possible 100 represented an improvement over last year’s ranking, but according to the EPI the Netherlands saw an even greater increase.
“Denmark has been in the top of non-native English speakers throughout the period of the EF EPI,” the group’s vice president, Christen Bagger, told The Local. “The score for Denmark has marginally improved since the 2015 survey, but even so the Dutch have kicked Scandinavia off the throne.”
Denmark was one of seven countries to receive the ‘very high’ proficiency rank, along with fellow Nordic nations Sweden, Norway and Finland. Iceland was not included in the study.
Singapore also earned the 'very high' distinction as the first Asian country to do so in the history of the study.
“Despite the growing emphasis on English language education around the world, no region has yet been able to approach the level of mastery of the language evident across Scandinavia,” Bagger said.
Bagger, himself a Dane, told The Local last year that Denmark should not rest on its laurels and continue to focus on improvements.
“What Danes can and should do to continue to be at the top of the list going forward – and I don't mean just fighting for first prize, but to stay as one of the nest non-native English speaking countries – is to invest in education,” he said. “[The government is] cutting down on it now, not specifically for language, but in general. They need to continue to invest in education, particularly when it involves globalisation, things like languages and international relations,” he told The Local.
Among the study’s other findings were that women have better English skills than men in almost all countries, including Denmark. Perhaps not surprisingly, the 18-25 age group also performed best worldwide.
At the bottom of the 72-country study were Laos, Libya and Iraq.