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S. Korea's English proficiency slips 13 notches to 49th

Nov. 27, 2023 - 17:28 By Lim Jae-seong
World map colored according to English proficiency level, based on EF EPI. (EF)

South Koreans’ English proficiency in 2022 worsened from the previous year, descending 13 spots in an annual report by the Swedish education corporation Education First.

South Korea stood in 49th place in the “2023 English Proficiency Index,” based on the test results of 2.2 million adults from 113 countries who took EF’s English certification test “EF Standard English Test” in 2022.

The previous year, the country ranked in 36th place among non-English speaking countries and regions.

The plummet in ranking is seen broadly across East Asia. China and Japan suffered falls of 20 and 7 notches respectively, ranking 82nd and 87th.

The EF evaluated that “growing confidence questioning Western cultural hegemony” may have led to the falling English proficiency in East Asia, as well as “pandemic-related travel restrictions.”

The EF said proficiency has been on a downslide for four years in East Asia, especially for 10 years in Japan.

The report also cited that the number of South Korean and Chinese students enrolled in the United States dropped by 20-30 percent in 2023, compared to 2020.

The EF, established in 1965, offers an English certification test, categorizing candidates in grades from A1 to C2, following the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

The EPI has been issued since 2011, coming as the 13th edition this year. South Korea has stayed slightly over the average yearly, being marked as a country with “moderate” English proficiency.