Exploring the Top 10 Countries with Low English Proficiency Rates

Today, we live in a world of language diversity where almost half of the population intends to learn two languages, at the least. And it isn’t hard to guess that the second language most of us want to learn is English, the universal language. It’s true –different non-English speaking countries do everything they can to understand and embrace the universal language. But, it’s only fair to say that not everyone is on the same line. Some countries exceed in many aspects of using English, particularly in terms of proficiency. In this post, we’ll rank the top 10 countries with low English proficiency rates..

Top 10 Countries with Low Proficiency in English

Language barriers are one of the many factors that hinder some countries from achieving a good grasp of the world’s lingua franca, the English language. It is already challenging enough to speak your own language with conviction, let alone learn a second language with such a complex vocabulary. Every year, the English dictionary comes up with 4000 new words on average. It’s no surprise that some people in various countries often have a hard time learning it –ultimately getting left behind. There are also several factors that hinder some countries from getting a good grasp of the world’s lingua franca. However, their low English proficiency doesn’t make them any less as a country or as a nation. Let’s take a look at the list.

Top 10 Countries with Low English Proficiency and Their Efforts to Improve

1. Libya

Among other countries, Libya ranked 88th in an English Proficiency survey. It sadly landed rock bottom, getting the usual spot in Iraq. However, the nation is trying its best to improve the level of English proficiency. They ensure that most activities that they’ll be having in the future will contribute to the mastery of the language. Today, they are using the English language to educate young students. They even avoid dubbing foreign movies in their native language. The government does this in hopes that more people would find it easier to learn the universal language –English!

2. Iraq

Mesopotamian Arabic is the most spoken language in Iraq. Kurdish and Neo-Aramaic languages come second and third. It’s easy to say that the English language is seldom used in the country. For a few consecutive years, Iraq is consistently leading the Top 10 Countries with Low Proficiency in English lists and posts from different search engines and academic studies. However, a little effort could make such a significant difference, and Iraq is on the move. Unfortunately, Iraqi teachers find it hard to maintain the mandatory English subject in schools due to internal and occupation conflict, according to reports.

3. Uzbekistan

The nation placed 86th in English proficiency rankings, and the local government was not happy about it. The leaders of Uzbekistan decided to turn to international ties for assistance. They are greatly alarmed that the curriculum in most schools now involves English courses. Of course, to improve the student’s proficiency in English. But since the government had reached out to neighboring countries for help, there had been several programs established to strengthen the country’s knowledge of English. Currently, there are several organizations from the United States that are helping the locals to improve their English proficiency.

4. Cambodia

There is an ongoing struggle between Cambodia and English proficiency. In this country, people in urbanized areas such as Phnom Phen, Siem Riep, and Sihanoukville use the English language with fantastic fluency. However, locals residing outside those places are voicing out several reasons. The list includes their low income and slow internet connection. Some even claim that the typical years of schooling must be the reason why the Kingdom is falling behind the rankings. Cambodia has been vocal about getting out of the top 10 countries with low English proficiency. Hopefully next year, they would be able to hit their target by coming up with solutions to the reported problems.

Top 10 Countries with Low Proficiency in English

5. Afghanistan

Unfortunately, this country’s score of 43.64 in the latest English Proficiency rankings indicates a very low English proficiency level. Most Afghans view English as a high-status language, and it’s understandable. If you do speak English, then you must be well-educated and wealthy. Moreover, females have lower proficiency in the language than males since women tend to drop out of school because of family and cultural restrictions. Throughout the years, Afghanistan has been recruiting English as A Second Language (ESL) teachers from other countries in an attempt to improve English standards.

6. Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still in the list of top 10 countries with low English proficiency rate. But recently, their local government announced that they are ahead of some neighboring countries. “Khebrat”, a teacher development program wherein Saudi Arabian teachers are being sent to the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand seems useful. The selected teachers needs to impart their learning as well as experiences to their students in school upon returning home. Today, numerous accounts flaunt the positive impact of the program to ESLs in the country. With consistency, effort, and cooperation, it would not be surprising if Saudi Arabia would miss this list next year. Who knows?

7. Myanmar

Most citizens of the country got the surprise of their lives upon seeing the results of the annual English Proficiency rankings. As for the record, it is the first time that Myanmar has entered such rankings. No one expected that it would place straight in the top 10 countries with low English proficiency. Some locals are stating that it is probably due to the reformation of most schools that is causing learning hindrances. At the same time, more people agree that it is because of a few international investments in the country. Either way, Myanmar looks promising in stepping up its game for future rankings since its government is trying to find a way to refine the quality of Myanmar’s education as well as English.

8. Algeria

There is a huge possibility that the debate among linguistic territories in the nation plays a significant factor in why Algeria landed in the bottom 10 of English Proficiency rankings. Specific ministries in the country are persuading the residents, especially students, to use English as the primary language inside universities, but this proposal was critically frowned upon by many.
The majority of Algerians speak French, and obviously, they already grew confident and familiar in terms of using the language. Thus, a lot of people opposed the idea of having to use English most of the time and refused to use it.

9. Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is one of the most eager countries to improve their English Proficiency. This country might be in the ninth position in this list, but the government definitely receives praise for its effort to improve. It backs several programs and curriculum changes that aim to encourage the residents to level up their English. They are conducting spelling bees and roadshows to get locals engaged in English proficiency activities. Mind you! Winners receive generous incentives and rewards for their effort and participation. It will not be a shocker if one day, Kazakhstan is not on this list anymore.

10. Oman

Omani people are one of the best when it comes to speaking good English, according to tourists. May it be the waiters in the local restaurants or the vendors of handmade souvenirs. But sadly, most locals that are not in the hospitality industry have very poor English which caused the nation to plunge into the top 10 countries with low proficiency in English. Students shared sentiments in numerous English Proficiency-related studies that the old-fashioned ways of teaching in schools and the reluctance of the students to learn the language are just some of the culprits. But, according to experts, a little change in the system and in the attitude of people in terms of learning would get Oman off the list in a few years’ time.

Why Using English Alongside One’s Mother Tongue Is Vital

Top 10 Countries with Low Proficiency in English

Most of the mentioned countries above are finding ways to fill in on what they lack and refine what they have. And that’s a good thing, if not a total relief. This is particularly important for individuals with low English proficiency, who may struggle to communicate effectively in an international setting. 

More and more countries are adapting to change –from schools to businesses and a variety of industries. They do understand that learning English is one of the best ways to stay in the international marketplace. However, it’s saddening to know still that a lot of non-native speakers are still resistant to change since they value ethnicity and familiarity with their mother tongues.

While it is undoubtedly a nationalistic act to use a country’s official language, experts believe that learning English can drive significant benefits to everyone. Notably, mastery of the English language doesn’t mean that one has to ditch their native language and culture. Instead, their knowledge will serve as their extra armor to survive in a battle. These days, almost everything comes in English, so it’s worth the effort.

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