According to this map, the English of many Spaniards is abominably bad

by Lorraine Williamson
English

MADRID – In Spain, compared to other European countries, English leaves a lot to be desired. English as an international language remains an issue in the country. And not just for the ‘common man’. Politicians also regularly seem to be bumbling during a visit abroad. 

For many Spaniards, English is still an impregnable obstacle. In most schools in Europe, children are taught English from an early age, but often this is theoretical and in writing. Speaking skills are hardly practised. Whether people in different countries in Europe have sufficient command of English to be able to hold a conversation was already examined by the European Commission in the Eurobarometer in 2012. 

Based on the results, data analyst and linguist Jakub Marian designed a map showing the extent to which the population in each European country speaks English. 

The best English in the north of Europe 

Of course, the northern countries also include countries where English is the native language. The top three: 

  • Ireland: 97%
  • The United Kingdom: 97%
  • Netherlands: 90% 

What is striking is that Malta comes directly below the top three. Still above two Scandinavian countries. 

cogesa expats
  • Malta: 89%
  • Sweden: 86%
  • Denmark: 86 % 

A little lower, but still high, scores Cyprus, where the native language does not come from Latin. And also the Austrians who claim to have the best English in Central Europe. Followed by Finland which scores slightly less than the other Scandinavian countries. 

  • Cyprus: 73 %
  • Austria: 73%
  • Finland: 70% 

Countries where more than half of the inhabitants speak English 

In the following countries, just over half of the population can speak English fluently. In this list we find not only Central and Eastern European countries, but also the southern countries Greece and Croatia. Moreover, in their own words, these two countries occupy an exceptional position in Southern Europe. 

  • Slovenia: 59%
  • Luxembourg: 56%
  • Germany: 56%
  • Belgium: 52%
  • Greece: 51%
  • Estonia: 50%
  • Croatia: 49% (2006 data)
  • Latvia: 46% 

The countries from the Romance language area are at the bottom 

Where the mother tongue is derived from Latin, the least English is spoken. Consequently, in France, Italy and Romania, one in three residents would speak English. Then come the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria. 

Spain in second to last place 

Spain is in second to last place. Only 22 % of Spaniards believed they could have a fluent conversation in English. As a tourist you should also be prepared for this. 

  • Portugal: 27%
  • Czech Republic: 27%
  • Slovakia: 26%
  • Bulgaria: 25%
  • Spain: 22%
  • Hungary: 20% 

Only in Hungary, fewer people speak good English than in Spain. However, things could have changed, because the data are from 10 years ago. What do you think? Have things changed?

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