There is a clear divide in Asia between countries previously under the influence of the British Empire, where English has long played an important role in daily communication, and countries where English is used primarily as a foreign language for communication with outsiders.
In the first group of countries, English is both a class marker and an institutional standard. In the second group of countries, policies and attitudes towards English are in flux as the language’s role evolves.
Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Singapore all have historical relationships with English. Due to this history, English is often used as one of the languages of government, as a language of instruction in schools, and as a means of daily communication in some social spheres. As is the case everywhere else in Asia, these countries also use English for business and tourism. All of these countries have complicated relationships with English, however, as accent and dialect often play a central role in personal, social, and national identity.
As one might expect, English proficiency tends to be higher in countries with historical ties to the language than in other parts of Asia. Singapore has the strongest English proficiency in Asia, with an increase of nearly two and a half points since last year. This puts the country squarely in the Very High Proficiency band, up six places in the rankings.
Europe’s English proficiency remains far higher than that of other regions, with Northern and Central Europe leading the world.
Overall, English proficiency in Latin America is low, and there is substantial room for improvement.
The Middle East and North Africa has the lowest level of English proficiency in the world, and the overall level of proficiency is improving in only a few countries.