The newest edition of the annual English Proficiency Index (EPI) from global language training company Education First (EF) ranked Denmark fifth out of 88 countries that don't have English as a national language.
That’s a drop of two spots since last year. As recently as 2014, the index declared Danes the world’s best non-native English speakers in the world.
This year’s index was topped by Sweden, which overtook last year's winner, the Netherlands. Singapore was third, followed by Norway.
Even though Danes are now seen as the worst English speakers of the three Scandinavian nations, that hardly means their English skills aren’t good. In addition to remaining in the global top five, Denmark is still one of just 12 countries to earn the 'very high' proficiency distinction. Of those, all but two – Singapore and South Africa – are in Europe.
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'Very high' proficiency was defined by EF as the ability to carry out complex, nuanced tasks in English, such as negotiating a contract with a native English-speaker, reading advanced texts with ease, and using nuanced and appropriate language in social situations.
The EF report noted that “Denmark is the only European country to have experienced a significant decline,” while eight other European nations jumped into the “high proficiency” category.
Denmark has never been ranked outside the top five in the eight years the survey has been published, although this was the first time since 2013 that it ranked fifth.
Rico Carstensen of EF told broadcaster TV2 that he was surprised to see Danes fall down the list for the second year in a row.
“We’ve been number one before, back in 2014, and that was something we could be very proud of so I would say it’s a bit of a surprise that we have dropped again this year because we see ourselves as some of the best [non-native English speakers] in the world and we have proven that before,” he said.
The report is based on a comparison of English skills measured by testing 1.3 million people, who voluntarily applied to take the test, in 88 countries. The full EPI report can be read here.