7 Best Non-Native English-Speaking Countries for International Students in 2024

Netherlands Austria Europe International Studies Higher Education News Statistics by Erudera News Mar 05, 2024


Although most universities worldwide offer English-taught programs nowadays, to avoid challenges in communication while studying abroad, international students should choose study destinations where English - as a global language - is widely spoken.

Today, about 1.5 billion people worldwide speak English either as native speakers or as their second language, Erudera.com reports.

According to an annual study assessing English proficiency in 113 non-English speaking countries conducted by international education company Education First (EF), the Netherlands continues to claim the top spot for English language skills. The same has the number one spot in Europe out of 34 countries.

Singapore, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Belgium rank behind the Netherlands, making up the top seven countries with the best non-native English speakers in the EF English Proficiency Index 2023, which is based on the EFSET English test results taken by 2.2 million adults.

Countries With Very High Level of English Proficiency

Except for Singapore and South Africa, people in European countries have the highest English proficiency. That being said, Europe is an ideal region for students who don’t want to learn a new language but still want to interact with locals.

The 2023 analysis has also collected city scores, revealing that Amsterdam leads with the best English score of 646, followed by Vienna with 640 points, Copenhagen with 639, Stockholm with 637, Oslo with 629, and Berlin with 625.

Here are the seven countries with the best English speakers where international students can easily communicate.


The Netherlands is known worldwide as an excellent study destination for international students, especially due to the wide range of programs taught in English. The country retained the top spot for the best non-native English speakers in the world for the fifth consecutive year.

It ranked first in the EF English Proficiency Index 2023, scoring 647 out of a maximum score of 800.

Over the past decade, the Netherlands has attracted very high numbers of students from around the world. During the 2022/23 academic year, the number of international students in the country totaled 122,287, up from just under 54,000 in 2011.

The influx of international students has led to accommodation struggles and a lack of access to some educational programs. As a result, the government, in a bid to manage the numbers, asked universities earlier last year to reduce the intake and promote proficiency in the Dutch language.

“In the last academic year, there were 115,000 international students in the Netherlands, 3.5 times as many as in 2005-2006. At universities, 40 percent of new students came from abroad (2015: 28 percent),” the Dutch government said in a statement.

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In addition to having one of the best education systems in the world, Singapore is among the top non English speaking countries. With 631 points, it ranks second for the best English speakers.

On the list ranking the highest English proficient countries, Singapore is first in Asia for English skills, out of 23 countries.

Data from the International Trade Administration show that the estimated number of international students in Singapore is about 50,000. Most of these students come from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, India, and South Korea.


Austria is also proficient in English, as per the EF English Proficiency Index. It makes up the top three of the best non-native English-speaking countries, with an overall score of 616. That means international students can adapt more easily to the culture in this country and foster social interactions.

About 390,000 students pursue education in Austria, of which 25 percent are international students.

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Denmark ranks fourth among countries for English language proficiency, overtaking Norway, which in 2022 secured the fourth spot.

Ministry of Education and Science data indicate that nearly one in every ten university students in Denmark is an international student.

Last year, Denmark's number of international students enrolling in bachelor programs increased by 43 percent.


Norwegians learn the language from an early age, so it is also widely spoken in the country. Data suggest that about 90 percent of the general population speaks the language at some level.

This is also supported by the international index, which shows that out of 113 countries, Norway ranks number five in the list of countries with a very high English proficiency level.

Norway is home to more than 24,000 international students, up from 22,450 in 2021 and 2021,074 in 2020.

However, last year, Norwegian universities received fewer students from non-EEA countries. According to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), there is a 45 percent decrease in this group of students.


With an overall score of 609, Sweden ranks sixth among non-native countries for very high English proficiency. Swedish universities enrolled 39,806 international students in the 2021.22 academic year, of which 28,197 were in exchange programs.


Belgium has fallen one spot in the global list of countries that speak the best English, ranking 7th.

In the 2022/23 academic year, higher education institutions in Belgium enrolled almost 279,000 students, an increase from almost 237,000 in 2016/17.

OECD data show that higher education in Belgium has also witnessed an increase in international student numbers. About 52,100 students attended in 2021, up 10 percent from 2019.

10 Countries With Moderate English Proficiency

Where May Students Struggle to Speak English to Locals?

Some of the countries that attract international students, such as Turkey or Brazil, have a low level of English language proficiency.

However, according to the ranking, Pakistan leads in the "Low English Proficiency" category, scoring 497 points, followed by Lebanon with 496 points, Turkey with 493, Sri Lanka with 491, and Tanzania with 491, among others.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the lowest level of English proficiency of any country in the world. Ahead of it are Tajikistan, Yemen, Libya, and Rwanda.

Other least English-speaking countries are:

  • Palestine (445)
  • Uzbekistan (442)
  • Cameroon (438)
  • Senegal (438)
  • Jordan (431)
  • Sudan (430)
  • Cambodia (421)
  • Haiti (421)
  • Oman (418)
  • Angola (416)

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