If you’re an English speaker planning to move to Europe in 2022, you might want to find a country where you’re likely to be understood from the start.
Although learning the local language of your new home should be a priority, it does take time.
As you become familiar with verb tenses and articles, it’s comforting to know that you can still communicate in English if needed.
In some European countries, English is widely spoken, which makes it a safe bet. Other countries require knowledge of the local language just to apply for residency.
What are the best European countries for English speakers?
Native English speakers are notoriously weak at learning a foreign language. A European Commission study in 2020 found that 62% of Britons surveyed did not speak a second language. In the EU, 56% of people can speak at least one.
In a InterNations Study of expats’ concerns before going abroad, the biggest fear was the language barrier.
So if you want to move to Europe but are worried about language barriers, it’s a good idea to prioritize country where English is widely spoken.
The English Proficiency Index published by global education company Education First (EF) reveals the best countries in Europe to speak English.
EF collated the English test scores of 2 million people around the world, including 35 European countries, to come up with their rankings. Each country received a ranking out of 800 points.
Northern European countries have the best English skills
European countries took eight spots in EF’s top ten countries for English speakers.
Croatia ranks 10th, but Northern European countries dominate the ranking. Finland and Sweden come in 9th and 8th while Denmark comes in third place.
In second place comes Austriascoring 641 points out of a possible 800. The first place is taken by the Netherlandswith between 91 and 93% of Dutch people claiming to be able to hold a conversation in English.
Outside European countries, Italy came to the lowest place, so if you feel like moving there, it’s worth considering language lessons beforehand.
Which European countries require knowledge of the language for residence permits?
If you know you have trouble learning a language, watch out for countries that require foreign citizens to take a language test in order to apply for residency.
To obtain permanent residency and citizenship, Germany requires knowledge of the language. Current regulations require German at level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
This is defined as being able to “understand the main clear standard entry points on familiar topics regularly encountered at work, school, leisure, etc.”
In Norwaytemporary residence permits have no language requirements while permanent residence permits require good language proficiency.
Depending on your situation, you may need to take 250 to 550 hours of Norwegian lessons and a course in social studies. In some cases, you can show that you have passed a Norwegian language test at level A2 instead.
Permanent residence at Swiss also requires proficiency in one of its languages (German, French or Italian) at level A2 for speaking and A1 for writing.
Both France and Sweden are currently considering introducing language requirements for long-term or permanent residence permits.
Which European countries have the lowest language requirements?
Many countries do not require knowledge of the language for residence permits and only require language proficiency to apply for citizenship.
Spain, for example, only requires an A2 DELE (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera) degree in Spanish to apply for citizenship. This is the equivalent of a high level beginner.
Portugal also requires CEFR level A2 for citizenship. countries such as Italy and France require B1 level language skills in order to apply for citizenship.