10 Chinese Cities with the Best English

By That's, November 18, 2016

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Education First (EF) has researched a global survey ranking English-speaking proficiency among different nations, listing the results in its annual English Proficiency Index (EPI). 

This year, China ranked in the middle of the list at 39th with a score of 50.94/100 and a “low” proficiency grade. 

Here's a look at the top ten Chinese cities for English-language speaking skills, according to EF's 2016 EPI rankings.

10. Xi'an

Xi'an City Wall

The capital of Shaanxi province, with a population of roughly 8.7 million people, earned a "low" rating of 50.24, ranking ahead of Chengdu (49.08) and Hangzhou (49.04).

9. Guangzhou

Canton Tower Guangzhou

Guangdong's capital city, home to 13 million people, ranked surprisingly low on the list with a overall index of 50.92.

8. Shenzhen

Shenzhen CBD

Guandong's second most populated city ranked slightly higher than Guangzhou with a score of 50.98. The Special Economic Zone has a population of 10.7 million people.

7. Wuhan


The capital of Hubei, home to 10.6 million people, tallied in at 51.11.

6. Macau


The Special Administrative Region (SAR), with a relatively small estimated population of 647,700 people, earned a 51.36 in the index.

5. Nanjing

Qinhuai River Nanjing

The capital of Jiangsu province, with population of 8.2 million people, also earned a "low" score of 52.48.

4. Tianjin


The northern city-municipality, home to 15.4 million people, was one of just four Chinese cities to earn a "moderate" rating, with a score of 52.59.

3. Beijing 


The capital ranked just above Tianjin with a rating of 53.49. The country's second-largest city has a population of 21.7 million people.

2. Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong, with a population of 7.2 million people, landed at number two on the list, receiving a score of 54.29. Internationally, the SAR didn't fare much better than China, placing 30th on the overall list. This is a little bit surprising considering the region’s colonial history. 

It’s been speculated that the drop in English proficiency in Hong Kong can be attributed to the increase in Cantonese being used in an attempt to distance the island from the Mandarin-speaking Mainland. 

1. Shanghai

Shanghai Skyline

China's largest city claimed the top spot within China, with a score of 55.54. The international city, home to more than 24 million people, surpassed Hong Kong by more than one full rating point to easily earn the number one ranking on the list.

Here's how the ratings were distributed nationwide. Green indicated "moderate" ratings, yellow "low" and orange "very low": 

China English-language proficiency

Region-wise, the top ten were as follows:

1. Shanghai: 55.54
2. Hong Kong: 54.29
3. Beijing: 53.49
4. Taiwan: 52.82
5. Tianjin: 52.59
6. Jiangsu: 51.75
7. Jilin: 51.75
8. Macau: 51.36
9. Guangdong: 51.08
10. Zhejiang: 51.02

Asian countries performed moderately on this year's list, with just Singapore cracking the top ten internationally:

1. Singapore: 63.52 (6th overall)
2. Malaysia: 60.70 (12th overall)
3. Philippines: 60.33 (13th overall)
4. India: 57.30 (22nd overall)
5. South Korea: 54.87 (27th overall)
6. Hong Kong: 54.29 (30th overall)
7. Vietnam: 54.06 (31st overall)
8. Indonesia: 52.94 (32nd overall)
9. Taiwan: 52.82 (33rd overall)
10. Japan: 51.69 (35th overall)

China and Macau just missed the top ten in Asia, coming in at 12th and 11th respectively.

Asian countries English-language proficiency

Internationally, European countries dominated the list. A look at the top ten countries for English-language proficiency overall: 

1. Netherlands: 72.16
2. Denmark: 71.15
3. Sweden: 70.81
4. Norway: 68.54
5. Finland: 66.61
6. Singapore: 
7. Luxembourg: 63.20
8. Austria: 62.13
9. Germany: 61.58
10. Poland: 61.49

The test was administered to 950,000 participants across 72 countries. 

[Images via Education First, Wikipedia, Pinterest, Trip Advisor]

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