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Where in Italy do people speak the most (and least) English?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Where in Italy do people speak the most (and least) English?
A study ranking average English-language proficiency across Europe found Italians have a lower level of fluency than many other Europeans. Photo: Francois Nascimbeni/AFP

Italy once again ranks among Europe's worst for English proficiency overall, but things vary considerably around the country.


Every year, the international learning company Education First (EF) publishes its English Proficiency Index (EPI), which ranks mastery of the English language in countries worldwide.

Among 113 non-native English speaking countries surveyed, Italy was ranked 35th this year, alongside Spain and Moldova.

The ranking is based on English language test results of more than two million adults in a total of 113 countries and regions.

Within Europe, Italy was ranked 26th out of 34 and was among just a few European countries to be given the 'moderate proficiency' rating - though neighbouring France was ranked even lower, in 30th place.

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This was an improvement on last year however, when Italy ranked 32nd out of 35 European countries. In 2021, Italy was rated the worst European country of all for English language proficiency.

So while Italy is slowly climbing the rankings, it still lags far behind many other European countries.

Austria ranked third worldwide, with only Singapore (in second place) and the Netherlands (first) scoring higher.

Source: EF EPI 2023

However within Italy itself the study also showed some notable variations in proficiency levels.

There was once again a clear north-south divide, with southern Italian regions scoring markedly worse than those in the north.

Veneto, Piedmont and Lombardy, all in the north, were named as the Italian regions with the highest levels of English proficiency.


At the bottom end of the table were the southern regions of Calabria and Campania, as well as the island of Sardinia.

The cities which recorded the highest average English-language proficiency levels were Padua, in Veneto, and Bergamo and Brescia in Lombardy, while southern capital Naples fared worst overall, followed by the Sicilian city of Catania, and Rome came third from bottom, followed by Florence.

Source: EF EPI 2023

There are thought to be several factors contributing to Italy's relatively low scores in English-language proficiency rankings.

Teachers, students and language experts say that the way the language is taught in Italian schools generally leaves students at a disadvantage, and that students have few opportunities to use the language in real life.

Meanwhile, the prevalence of dubbing in film and TV means young Italians are not exposed to foreign languages in this way as often as their counterparts in some European countries.


The study's authors pointed out that language learning opens up more opportunities for work, study and communication.

"People are learning English because it is useful to them,” they noted.

“English is by far the most common language of information exchange across borders, making it a key component for accessing knowledge and expertise.”


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