People in Switzerland now less proficient at speaking English, ranking reveals

People in Switzerland now less proficient at speaking English, ranking reveals

It seems learning English in Switzerland is no longer as big a priority as it once was: after placing in the top 20 for several years, the alpine nation has now fallen to 29th in the ranking of the best non-native English speakers in the world, according to the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) for 2022.

EF English Proficiency Index 2022

To create the EPI, EF, a language course provider, analysed the English language proficiency of people in 111 countries around the world where English is not the first or official language. Each country’s score was found by calculating the average normalised score of three different language tests - two freely available on the internet and one that is used by EF when calculating what level of language course someone should take.

Of particular note in the 2022 ranking, according to EF, was the impact of the COVID pandemic on test scores, as residents of cities and young people have now become less proficient in English. On the other hand, scores in rural areas have improved, something the ranking attributes to more people moving from cities to the countryside due to flexible and remote working.

Switzerland's English proficiency falls for second year

Switzerland's score in the 2022 ranking was nothing short of dismal, with the alpine nation dropping again to become the 29th-best on the list. After peaking at 11th place in 2011, Switzerland has now not found itself in the top 20 for two years in a row.

With a score of 563, Switzerland's score fell by 12 points since last year and is now 98 points off the Netherlands, which took the top spot in the ranking for the fourth time in a row. However, the country was still ranked as having a “high proficiency” in English, meaning many people in Switzerland, especially in some cities, are still able to apply for jobs, read newspapers, negotiate work contracts and have idle small talk in English without issue.

Zurich, Basel and Thurgau have the best English speakers in Switzerland

Out of the 17 Swiss cantons analysed, the study found that people in Zurich, Basel Stadt and Thurgau were the most proficient in English, with scores up to 56 points higher than the national average. The worst cantons for English were found to be Fribourg, Valais and, surprisingly given its nickname as the “international city”, Geneva with scores up to 35 points worse than the average.

Out of the cities, it was Canton Zurich that faired best, with people in Zurich, Winterthur and Basel being the most proficient at speaking English. These were followed by Lausanne, Bern and Lucerne, with Geneva taking the bottom spot.

Men in Switzerland were found to speak better English than women, with a score of 576 compared to the women’s score of 549. The most proficient English speakers were in their 30s and 40s, with people who had just graduated from higher education having the lowest level of English.

Top 13 non-native countries for English proficiency

In all, here are the 13 nations with a “high proficiency” for speaking English in 2022:

  1. The Netherlands
  2. Singapore
  3. Austria
  4. Norway
  5. Denmark 
  6. Belgium 
  7. Sweden
  8. Finland
  9. Portugal
  10. Germany
  11. Croatia
  12. South Africa
  13. Poland

For more information, visit the EF website.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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