The Nordic nation, which topped the index as recently as 2011, now ranks fifth worldwide in the 2015 English Proficiency Index (EPI) from global language training company Education First (EF), with the Dutch also demonstrating a superior grasp of the language.
But Norwegians need not despair, as according to EF, they was still one of only nine nations whose ability was ranked as “very high”, and their ability has actually improved since last year, with its score rising by 3.5, meaning it is catching up on both Denmark, which saw its score improve 0.75 and Sweden, which improved by 3.13, regaining the top spot.
The EPI map of Europe (story continues below)
The EPI report was based on data from nearly one million adult English learners. Larger European countries including Italy, Spain and Hungary failed to make the top 20, while France languished in 37th place.
For the first time the study also revealed the connection between countries' English levels and their achievements in innovation, by looking at metrics such as technology exports and spending on research and development.
“Countries with higher English proficiency have more researchers and technicians per capita,” said the report.
“The ability to learn from the research of others, participate in international conferences, publish in leading journals, and collaborate with multinational research teams is dependent upon excellent English,” it concluded.
The report also found that correlations between countries' English ability and Gross National Income per capita, quality of life and internet connectivity remained strong and stable.