Which Czech city speaks the best English? Hint: It's not Prague

Despite recent improvements, Czechia still ranks lower for English proficiency than the majority of European countries.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 18.11.2022 13:34:00 (updated on 18.11.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Not great, not terrible. When it comes to English proficiency, Czechia ranks 23rd out of 111 countries, which at first glance seems like a decent score but when compared to just Europe, Czechia is a disappointing 19th out of 35 countries. Still, the city of Prague was in the Very High Proficiency worldwide category, despite not being the most proficient Czech city.

The Netherlands came in first worldwide, according to the English Proficiency Index complied by EF Education First. Aside from Singapore, which came in second, the top 11 spots went to European nations.

The lowest proficiency worldwide was in Laos, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As for Europe, Azerbaijan was the worst, with Turkey coming in second.

Proficiency levels

  • Very high: Use nuanced and appropriate language in social situations, read advanced texts with ease, and negotiate a contract with a native English speaker.
  • High: Make a presentation at work, understand TV shows, and read a newspaper.
  • Moderate: Participate in meetings in one’s area of expertise, understand song lyrics, and write professional emails on familiar subjects.
  • Low: Navigate an English-speaking country as a tourist, engage in small talk with colleagues, understand simple emails from colleagues.
  • Very low: Introduce oneself simply (name, age, country of origin), understand simple signs, give basic directions to a foreign visitor.

The ranking was first made in 2011, and Europe as a whole has shown consistent improvement. “In Europe, lower-proficiency groups are catching up. Europe has the highest level of English proficiency of any region. Adults over 40 have improved far more quickly than other age cohorts in Europe, but contrary to other regions, younger adults have not lost ground,” Education First states in its report.

“Recently, large, lower-proficiency countries that border the European Union have contributed most to the rising regional average as progress within the EU has slowed,” Education First said. The European country showing most improvement was Russia, followed by Turkey, Ukraine, Italy, and Czechia. In last year’s ranking, Czechia had been 27th in the world.

Lagging behind its neighbors

But compared to its neighbors, Czechia did poorly. Austria ranked third globally, Germany was 10th, Poland 13th, and Slovakia was 15th.

Czechia’s score was enough, though, to get into the ranking’s High Proficiency category, the second-best tier.

While Czechia is not a star among its neighbors, it is still a bit better than some large countries in Western Europe. Italy, Spain, and France ranked globally in 32nd through 34th place respectively. This put them in the moderate category.

Prague's English proficiency isn't the best in Czechia

On its own, Prague did slightly better than the Czech Republic as a whole, and earned a place in the Very High Proficiency category. Amsterdam topped this category, where all the cities, except for Johannesburg, were in Europe.

Prague is both a city and a region. It did not score the best in either category when the different parts of Czechia were compared. The fact sheet for Czechia showed that Brno had slightly better English proficiency than Prague.

As for regions, South Moravia, the Pardubice Region, and Central Bohemia all did better than Prague. While the ranking placed Prague as a city at "very high," as a region it was listed simply as "high."

On the other hand, Vysočina was the worst region, followed by Olomouc and South Bohemia. The Hradec Králové and Karlovy Vary regions were not included in the ranking.

Czech regions ranked for English proficiency

  • 1.South Moravia (very high)
  • 2.Pardubice (very high)
  • 3.Central Bohemia (very high)
  • 4.Prague (high)
  • 5.Ústí nad Labem (high)
  • 6.Liberec (high)
  • 7.Zlín (high)
  • 8.Plzeň (high)
  • 9.Moravian-Silesia (high)
  • 10.South Bohemia (high)
  • 11.Olomouc (moderate)
  • 12.Vysočina (moderate)

Brno outranking Prague is not entirely unusual. “Capital cities and other metropolises have higher average levels of English proficiency than the country as a whole in almost every case; however, it is relatively rare for a country’s top performing city to be its capital,” the survey says.

Many cities do not appear to drain English speakers from their surrounding regions, according to the survey. “This finding is relevant for companies considering where to recruit talent at a reasonable cost, particularly given the massive shift towards remote and semi-remote working arrangements,” Education First wrote.

There is also a gender gap, with men in Czechia on average being just short of qualifying as having very high proficiency and women scoring a little lower. There is also a generation gap, with people aged 26 to 30 doing best, while people over the age of 41 fared more poorly.

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