Memos from Asia

English Proficiency: 5 Asian countries that speak English the Best

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Did you know that people in some Asian countries speak exceptionally well compared to the rest?

English is undoubtedly the most popular and widespread language in the world.

EF EPS (Education First English Proficiency Index) annually releases a report of analysis about the English language skills of people in different countries.

The latest version of the report (2019) involved the ranking of 100 countries in terms of English language proficiency.

Here we will discuss 5 Asian countries with the best English speakers:

5. INDIA – 55.49 points

India is the second country in terms of English speaking population after the US. Colonial history has also caused the rise of English speakers.

EPI (English Proficiency Report) categorizes India as “Moderate Proficiency country” with 55.49 points, ranked 5th in Asia and 34th in the globe out of surveyed 100 countries.

English is frequently used in urban areas compared to rural places. According to Statista (2019), 87.6% of urban area residents frequently use English, while the share of English speakers in rural places is only 12%.

4. HONG KONG, CHINA – 55.63 points

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China is among the countries with “High English Proficiency”. Hong Kong was ranked 4th and scored 55.63, which is just 0.14 higher than the result of India.

Interestingly, Hong Kong SAR and India interchanged the places in 2019. In 2018, Hong Kong was placed 5th in Asia, while India finished the year in 4th place.

Despite the high rank in Asia, Hong Kong could not increase the English language skills of the population at the same pace as European countries. For instance, Hong Kong’s rank was 22nd in the world in 2013, which dropped to 33th place in 2019.

3. Malaysia

Malaysia is the third-best country in Asia with regard to English proficiency. However, Malaysia comes 26th out of 100 countries with 60.14 points after Slovakia.

English is among the most important subjects in the educational system. It is widely used especially in urban and business cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

However, Malaysia has dropped down in the ranking. For instance, in 2016, the country was placed 12th in the world, which was significantly higher than today.

2. Philippines – 60.14 points

The Philippines scored 60.14 points and was placed 2th in Asia. Being an English-friendly country, around 60% of the population can speak or understand English.

According to an analysis of EF EPI, slightly more males speak in English than females, 60.41% to 59.96%.

Influence of the west to the education system is one of the biggest reasons for the high competence of the population in English language skills. Many teachers were sent from America to teach English. In addition, people in the Philippines come across English media in their everyday lives.

1. Singapore – 66.82 points

Singapore leads the list and the only country in Asian, which is classified in the “Very High Proficiency” group with 66.82 points. It is the 5th country in the world with the best non-native English speakers.

Over the past years, the international results of Singapore have highly improved. The country achieved 3rd place in 2018, which was ranked 12th in 2015.

Currently, Singapore has the top education system in the world according to Pisa worldwide report. The high-quality education can be results of teaching style in Singapore and high spending on education.

To conclude, the top Asian countries with high English skills are India, Hong Kong Sar, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. The top education system and history are the major causes of high English skills in these countries.

Reference list:

EPI report:

Statista (2019). Share of English Speakers in India in 2019, by region. [Accessed 10 August 2020].

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