Spain is continuing to see big gains in its English language skills, with the country reaping the rewards of increased investment into language education, a new study shows.
Spain has ranked 20th among 60 countries surveyed in the latest Education First (EF) English Language Proficiency Index.
That is three places higher than Spain managed in EF's 2013 index, and means the country is now only just outside the High Proficiency Index which includes countries like Switzerland and Singapore.
It also puts Spain a long way ahead of countries like Italy, in 27th place, and France, which ranked 29th.
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The results show a continuing trend towards better English language skills in Spain, with the country one of the biggest improvers since 2007 — behind only Turkey, Poland and Estonia.
"Spain is seeing the results of a significant change in attitude toward English language education. The Spanish government has defined English as one of seven basic skills, alongside Spanish and math," the authors of the EF study noted.
The report also noted the huge increase in the number of bilingual schools in the country, where students spend 30 percent of the day in an English-speaking environment.
"Although other economic factors are hampering Spain’s recovery, training young people in essential skills for a globalized economy is undoubtedly a wise investment," the study said.
The latest EF English Language Proficiency Index showed Spanish women had slightly better English than Spanish men, while people aged 35 to 44 had the best English.
In terms of regions, the highest scores were in the Basque Country while the lowest were in Extremadura.
In terms of global standings, the Danes
came out top as the best non-native speakers of English ahead of the Netherlands and Sweden, while 18 of the top 20 countries were European.
The EF study also concluded there exist strong correlations between English proficiency and income, quality of life, ease of doing business, Internet usage, and years of schooling. These correlations are remarkably stable over time, stated EF in its findings.