Do Malaysians really have better English than Singaporeans? Are Thais really that far behind?

In the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), Singapore is rated 12th one place lower than Malaysia (11th) with other countries in the region Hong Kong (22nd), Indonesia (25th) and Vietnam (28th) featuring lower down the list. I am sure most Malaysian’s will be very pleased to read this due to the natural rivalry between the two countries on either side of the causeway.

The EF English Proficiency Index is a study that is aimed at ranking countries by the English competence of adults within that country (in countries that are not native speaking countries). Produced by a global training company, with data collected from over 2 million results (from 58 countries), the most recent study was completed at the end of 2013.

The general conclusion from the study is that the English capability levels are changing at different levels and in some areas are declining. In general, Europe speaks the best English with Latin America speaking the worst. Interestingly, the size of investment in English education and training does not always correspond to the amount of progress made over time.

Studies like the EF English Proficiency Index will always be discredited, largely because the participants are self-selected. It is online and therefore assumes the use of the internet. Therefore people from rural communities (who will have a lower level of English) are less likely to take the test. Having said this, this ‘online assessment  factor’ probably increases the validity of the test when looking at working professionals as they all will have access to the internet. Regardless, it is one of the few barometers for comparing English skills throughout the world.

Looking at the results, it is surprising to see that the Philippines does not feature in the survey as it is a hub for off shore service, shared service and Business process centers largely to the strength of the English speakers in the country (and the affordability). Hopefully in next years study it will be included. Other surprises in the test are Thailand’s position of 55th.  This is below all other East Asian countries and all South American countries (except Panama). It is hard to believe that the average person in Bangkok is that far behind the average person in Seoul or Beijing. The two great giants of India and China are positioned 21st and 34th respectively.

When evaluating the study, Kazakstan seems to have had the greatest improvement in English proficiency between 2007 and 2013 with Vietnam and Turkey also featuring highly in English advancement.

In final observation of the study, not surprisingly the northern European countries (Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Estonia and Denmark) show their supremacy by occupying the top 5 spots with Austria coming in 6th.

Examagram is some time off being able to offer evaluation along these numbers and by the very nature of the product will never be able to give an accurate reflection across society as a whole. The testing service is predominantly used by office based professionals so will give no insight into whether a Taxi driver in Jakarta speaks better English than his counterpart in Shanghai. However, we are able to see some trends in the willingness of companies within each country to test their employees English. In the future we will release more information about this subject but from general observation it can be concluded that businesses from countries like Thailand, Vietnam and China are using Examagram quicker than countries like Singapore and Malaysia. The reasoning for this may be because the English standard in these countries is lower and therefore the English standard cannot be assumed as readily as in Malaysia and Singapore. It will be interesting to see as these countries increase their English proficiency whether the importance will increase in priority for these countries. IF you want to test your English, future employees English or your current work force then please log on to Examagram using your linked in account, as ever we need to let you know it is FREE.