The French are the 'worst at English in the EU'

Sophie Inge
Sophie Inge - [email protected] • 12 Nov, 2014 Updated Wed 12 Nov 2014 17:41 CEST
The French are the 'worst at English in the EU'

The French have the lowest level of English proficiency out of all the nationalities in the European Union, a damning new report released on Wednesday has concluded. How can that be?


In the report, by international language training company Education First, which looked at proficiency of English in 63 countries, France was ranked the lowest out of all EU nations and 29th overall.

The only European nations with lower levels of English were Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

With a score of just 52.68 France ranked just below both Indonesia and its European neighbour, Italy.

Denmark took the top spot with an English language proficiency of 69.3, followed by Holland with 68.98 and Sweden with 67.80.

The report, blamed France’s poor result on the “limited education reforms on language instruction” as well as the teaching quality in the public education system.

As a result, only children whose parents are able to afford trips abroad, tutoring and private schools are able to achieve a high degree of English proficiency, the report said.

It also blamed France for being too protective of its own language.

“Improving the country’s English skills is not a subject of national debate,” the report said. “If anything, public debate is aroused only when it is proposed that English take on a small measure of official importance.”

SEE ALSO: The French depression about speaking English

Nevertheless, European adult English proficiency still remained strong overall, with 19 European countries appearing in the top 22 in this year’s index.

Many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, have made proficiency gains.

France’s results, however, show little improvement from 2013’s ranking when France was ranked 35th out of the 60 countries profiled that year.

Speaking to The Local previously, Adeline Prevost, from the Paris office of Education First, said that the main problem lies with France’s fear of losing its own culture and language.

“We need to be a bit less protective of our language. If you look at Sweden, they are number one in the world for English proficiency and they have the best of both worlds: they keep their own language and culture but they have a high level of English," she told The Local.

“The French have to understand that just because they are talking, reading or listening in English it doesn’t mean that we will kill our own language. Of course that won’t happen. This is the wrong mentality."


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