Study: Malaysia has best English language speakers in Asia

PETALING JAYA - Malaysia apparently has the best English language speakers in Asia, beating out Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China and Kazakhstan - according to a Singapore-based English Language school.

The school, Education First, which released the findings of their English Proficiency Index on their website Wednesday, ranked Malaysia as having the highest level of English proficiency out of 13 countries in Asia.

On the global scale, Malaysia was ranked 11th out of 60 countries, with four of the top five slots going to Scandinavian countries, with Sweden and Norway taking the top two spots and Malaysia outperforming Singapore, Belgium, Germany, Latvia and Switzerland - countries which took the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th spots respectively.

On its website, the school said that it had found that some Asian countries in particular Indonesia and Vietnam, have transformed their English proficiency over the 2007-2012 period.

"China has also improved, although less dramatically. Japan and South Korea, despite enormous private investment, have declined slightly.

"Across the board, English language skills are improving in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). "This year, India and Russia have moved ahead of China, and Brazil is closing in fast," said Education First.

The school went on to say that their Index found the Middle East and North Africa to be the regions with the weakest English proficiency.

"These oil-rich nations have staked their futures on developing knowledge economies before their oil production peaks. An exception to the region's lacklustre performance is the United Arab Emirates, which has improved significantly," said Education First.

On the mechanics of the Index, the school said the Index calculated a country's average adult English skill level using data from two Education First tests.

"One test is open to any Internet user for free. The second is a 70-question online placement test used by EF during the enrolment process before students start an English course. Both include grammar, vocabulary, reading, and listening sections.

"The open online test is a 30-question adaptive exam, so each test-taker's questions are adjusted in difficulty according to his or her previous correct and incorrect answers," said the school.