In which Latin American countries people speak English the best?

11, February

It is a key language to compete in the global economy; even though the entire region improved its’ level, only one ...

It is a key language to compete in the global economy; even though the entire region improved its’ level, only one country shows “high proficiency”; find out which.

Un alto nivel de inglés en la población es crucial para asegurar competitividad en un mundo globalizado.

The correlation between a country’s competiveness in the global economy and the English level of its citizens is progressively calling the attention of Latin American governments.

The issue has gained relevance during the past few months among educational authorities and regional media, right after the recent release of the English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), an annual report published by the international languages training company, Education First. For example, according to EF EPI, certain public servants, such Brazilian Education Minister, Cid Gomes and a presidential advisor of a non-specified country, have shown curiosity regarding the results of the study.

Even though developed countries have populations with excellent English proficiency, the level in Latin America has improved over the past few years. However, there still is much to do, says Education First.

The EF EPI report, published by the end of 2014, states that Argentina is the only country within the region in the “high proficiency” countries’ list and only the Dominican Republic made it to the “moderate proficiency” column.

The rest of the countries were classified as having either “low proficiency” or “very low proficiency”. Those countries were beaten by Asian nations that do no even share the same alphabet with the English language, such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and China.

At first, the results are really astonishing, particularly considering that Latin America is under a strong American influence and is inundated with media from that English speaking country.

However, these facts do not necessarily have an influence on the English level of countries.








Argentina (15)

Dominican Republic (23)

Peru (34)

Ecuador (35)

Brazil (38)

Mexico (39)

Source: English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) 2014

Why English?

Improving the general population’s English proficiency is considered a matter of vital economic interest.

In a globalized world, an effective communication is necessary to trade through borders. In order to do that, a common language is needed and that language is English.

“An economy would simply not survive in this sphere without that skill” explains Minh Ngan Tran, Research director, co-author and editor of the report EF EPI 2014.

Internet’s language is English, if you want to have access to the web you need to master English, says Tran.

Countries with large oil reserves now understand the vital need of diversifying their economies and in order to do that, they must negotiate in English.

In the developing world, for instance in Latin America, a part of the economic policy includes implementing educational systems to improve the English level of the general population.

Outside the financial world, most scientific and academic publications are edited in English, which is also the universal language in the Internet.

“If you want to have access to that important piece of information, you must have English proficiency”, claims Tran.

This language’s proficiency is also related to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. In other words, the better level of English a country has, the higher the average income per person is.

Therefore, there is no mystery in the fact that several Western European nations have very high and high English proficiency levels, according to the EF EPI report.

Public education

The only Latin American country to appear in the high proficiency category was Argentina (number 15).

“Argentina was the regional surprise and the reason is the improvements in its’ educational system”, explains Minh Ngan Tran. “The government has invested in public education and English teachers’ training in order to grant a solid level of the language”.

According to Tran, establishing a universal public education is the first step to take.

The second step is training teachers to impart the language properly.

“It is about high quality public education, no only for students in urban areas, but for the entire population”, points out Tran.

“We think of English as a subject among many other subjects in the educational system. If the system is not effective and efficient, neither will be English. There is a correlation between years invested in education and the level of English achieved”.

Consequently, maybe those countries placed in the first five positions of the index; Denmark, Holland, Sweden, Finland and Norway (almost all of them are Scandinavian), have enviable public education systems.


There are other factors that may have an influence, such as Internet connectivity and the index of trading facility in the country; how safe and transparent are the commercial and financial activities.

A fact that has been discarded is a nation’s proximity to an English speaking country. Such is the case of Mexico, a country that shares extended borders with the United States.

This country ranked number 39 and is classified as having “low proficiency”.

“Proximity is not important, because, if it was, border countries would have high levels of English, and that does not happen”, says Mihn Ngan Tran. “In touristic areas, where the need is more pressing, the English level is higher, so the relation with the economy is clear”.

Even though Latin America is flooded with American television shows and media, most of these programs are translated to the local language, therefore they have no impact in English learning.

Despite the position in the Index, Minh Ngan Tran highlighted there have been notorious improvements in the English level within the region.

“Brazil is the rising star. We are impressed with its constant improvement and the impact it has had on its trading abilities”, he assures. “The result is so important to them that their Education Minister tweeted about it when the report was published”.

In spite of being number 38, Tran expects there will be an important growth in the English level in Brazil, particularly after it served as the headquarters of the World Cup 2014 and will do so again in the next Olympic Games, which will be developed in Rio de Janeiro during 2016. Both events are truly meaningful for the development of the language.

Other important countries are Peru (34), Ecuador (35) and Colombia (42).

Even though during the past few years many of these Latin American countries have focused their commercial attention towards China and other Asian nations, Mihn Ngan Tran points out a very important fact: “when they negotiate with Asian countries, they do it in English”.

Nevertheless, he states that there still is much left to do with English in the region if Latin America wants to maintain its presence in the globalized world.

Source: www.lanació