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Switzerland's ranking for English skills worsens
The language of Shakespeare: still not a Swiss priority?

Switzerland's ranking for English skills worsens

Malcolm Curtis · 12 Nov 2014, 19:08

Published: 12 Nov 2014 19:08 GMT+01:00

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The fourth EF English Proficiency Index released this week ranks the Swiss in 18th place, down from 16th place a year ago.

Despite the continuing importance in Switzerland of English in business, international organizations and multinational companies, the Swiss continue to lag well behind the four Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Poland and Austria.

This group of seven countries, headed by Denmark, is considered by the study to have a “very high proficiency” for English language skills.

The Netherlands ranks second, followed by Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland and Austria.

The Swiss are noted for being multilingual, but English is still not yet as high a priority as in these countries, the index results indicate.

Switzerland, which has four national languages — French, German, Italian and Romansh — is ranked at the bottom of 11 countries with “high proficiency” for English, behind such nations as Hungary, Romania, Argentina and Latvia.

German dialect is spoken by 64 percent of the Swiss population, with French accounting for 20 percent and Italian about seven percent, while Romansh is spoken by less than one percent.


Although many Swiss speak two or more languages, the country is divided into linguistic regions where English sometimes becomes the common language between, say, French- and German-speakers.

Retailers often use English words to market products nationally to avoid having to use the three official languages.

But English does not have an official status in Switzerland and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation shut down its English-language radio service last year.

The latest EF English Proficiency Index ranks 63 countries and territories.

EF (“Education First”), a language learning and educational company launched in Sweden in 1965, developed its ranking from the results of 750,000 adults who took the company’s English tests in 2013.

Story continues below…

The results are compared with data going back seven years to check progress made in the countries examined.

For more about the EPI, check here.

EF EPI 2014-English from EF Education First on Vimeo.

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Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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