Percentage of the EU population able to hold a conversation in English (by various criteria)

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

In my visualization of the percentage of the EU population able to hold a conversation in English, I presented separate percentages for each EU country (apart from Croatia, because the source of data was from 2012). Then I thought it could be also interesting to determine the percentages for various parts of the EU combined, not just separate countries, so here are some interesting results:

Percentage of English speakers by native language family

english-families

This chart shows the percentage of people able to hold a conversation in English (in the EU) by the language family their mother tongue belongs to. Note that “Germanic” in this chart doesn’t include native speakers of English.

Percentage of English speakers in new member countries

english-eu-27-15

This chart compares the percentages of English speakers in “EU-15” (the 15 member countries that joined the EU before or during 1995), “EU-27” (EU countries that joined before 2013), and “new members” (countries that joined EU after 1995 and before 2013). Note that native English speakers are included in the figures.

Percentage of English speakers by GDP per capita

english-gdp

This chart compares the percentages of English speakers of countries whose GDP per capita is above the EU average and the rest. Note that native English speakers are included in this chart.

Raw data

Finally, here’s the table the charts are based on. The study (Special Eurobarometer 386, 2012) only surveyed people aged 15 or older, so the “Population 15+” shows how many people there were in each country aged 15+ in 2012, “% English” shows the percentage of English speakers based on the study, and “# English” shows the number of English speakers in each country (the product of the previous to columns). This last figure is of course not as precise as it may seem from the number of valid digits (this is just to achieve consistency), as the percentage in the third column is based on a small sample of the population and is therefore subject to statistical error.

CountryPopulation 15+% English# English
Austria7,009,82773%5,117,174
Belgium8,939,54652%4,648,564
Bulgaria6,537,51025%1,634,378
Cyprus660,40073%482,092
Czech Republic9,012,44327%2,433,360
Denmark4,561,26486%3,922,687
Estonia945,73350%472,867
Finland4,440,00470%3,108,003
France47,756,43939%18,625,011
Germany64,409,14656%36,069,122
Greece8,693,56651%4,433,719
Hungary8,320,61420%1,664,123
Ireland3,522,00097%3,416,340
Italy5,186,239134%17,633,213
Latvia1,447,86646%666,018
Lithuania2,829,74038%1,075,301
Luxembourg404,90756%226,748
Malta335,47689%298,574
Netherlands13,371,98090%12,034,782
Poland32,413,73534%11,020,670
Portugal8,080,91527%2,181,847
Romania18,246,73131%5,656,487
Slovakia4,549,95526%1,182,988
Slovenia1,759,70159%1,038,224
Spain39,127,93022%8,608,145
Sweden7,791,24086%6,700,466
United Kingdom5184801097%50,292,570

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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