Leiria, Braga, and Viseu are the Portuguese districts where English is best spoken, knocking Porto and Lisbon off the podium this year into 4th and 6th places, respectively.

In terms of cities, Braga leads the ranking, followed by Coimbra and Porto, concludes Education First (EF) and reported by ECO, which analysed data from more than 2.1 million non-native speakers of English, in 111 countries and regions. It is the first time since this study was published that Lisbon and Porto are not fighting for first place on the list of Portuguese cities where English is spoken best.

“This year's results reflect the impacts of the pandemic. From a worrying decline in English proficiency among younger people to high proficiency outside large urban centres, which has implications for remote work. It is a report that mirrors stories of remarkable progress and discouraging setbacks”, comments the study coordinator, Kate Bell.

English proficiency in Braga (640 points) is on par with the best capitals in the world: Amsterdam (673 points) and Copenhagen (664 points). Coimbra occupies 2nd place on the podium of cities, with 631 points, and Porto 3rd, with 630 points. Aveiro and Lisbon, both with 622 points, close the top 5.

In the classification by district, Leiria, Braga, and Viseu collected 636, 631, and 630 points, respectively. Porto (629 points) and Aveiro (624 points) complete the top 5, while Lisbon only appears in sixth place in the ranking, with 622 points.

Portugal drops two positions

In general, this year the results of the Portuguese tests were worse than last year. Portugal dropped 11 points in the index that assesses proficiency in the English language and dropped two places, now occupying 9th place, surpassed by Sweden (7th) and Finland (8th). However, Portugal maintains the “High Proficiency” status, which it achieved for the first time three years ago.

The world ranking is led by the Netherlands. Austria maintains the 2nd position and Norway closes the podium of the countries where English is best spoken. On the opposite side, Yemen (109th), the Democratic Republic of Congo (110th), and Laos (111th) are the countries where English proficiency is lowest.

Meanwhile, countries like Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Spain, Greece, and Italy are part of the group that most improved their level of English compared to last year.

Youth English

In addition to “big cities” no longer being synonymous with “better English” — out of 500 large cities evaluated, 130 had no better evaluation than the region where they are located, and another 130 only managed to match the level of proficiency — the study also concludes that young people between 18 and 20 years old are speaking worse English.

“English proficiency has improved among adults over 25. The group of people over 40 was the one that improved the most. The English level of the population between 21 and 25 remained stable. However, there is a drop of 50 points, in the last two years, in the group of young people between 18 and 20 years old. Europe is the only region in the world where this is not happening and young people are not losing proficiency”, explains Kate Bell.

In Portugal, young people between 18 and 20 years old and adults over 41 years old are the ones with the worst score in this study.

With regard to an analysis by gender, the trend over the past three years prevails: men managed to obtain a better classification than women. Even so, Portuguese women also reach a “very high” level of English (606 points), a value lower than that achieved last year, but well above the average for men worldwide (511 points).