Why Norwegians are so good at speaking English

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Why Norwegians are so good at speaking English
Norwegians have been ranked among the best English speakers in the world. Pictured is Bergen, where the local's scored the highest language skills. Pictured is Bergen. Photo by Shinjan Bhattacharya on Unsplash

Norwegians rank among the top English speakers in the world, according to a report which tracks the proficiency of language skills in more than 100 countries. 


Norwegians have a very high proficiency level in English, ranking third in Europe and fourth in the world, according to the 2022 EF English Proficiency Index.

The ranking is based on test results of more than two million adults in 111 countries and regions. Norway scored 627 points out of a possible 700, compared to Austria's 628 and 661 in the Netherlands. 

The global average score was 502. According to the tests, Bergen was the city with the best English speakers. Residents there scored a very impressive 655 points. After Bergen, Oslo and Hamar were the cities with the best language skills. 

When it came to regions, west Norway came out on top for English language skills, followed by the east and northern parts of the country. 


The report also found that men had marginally higher language skills than women. Those aged between 26-30 scored the best. Overall, Norway has finished among the top five countries since 2011.  

Why are the language skills so high? 

English has been a subject in primary and secondary school education for decades. Since the 1960's English has been a mandatory subject in the national secondary education curriculum. 

In 1997, it became a compulsory subject from first grade. English written and spoken communication, culture, society and literature are all taught as part of the Norwegian curriculum. 

Starting in primary school, formal education in English is the foundation for the high level of comprehension and spoken English in Norwegian society. The impact leisure time activities have made on many Norwegians' English skills also deserves some credit.

For example, Norway is not a country known for dubbing international films and TV series, giving locals even more exposure to the English language. 

Norwegians rank high in Norwegian proficiency… but do they like to speak it? 

Doing well on exams is one thing. Actually wanting to speak the language is another. And when it comes to putting their skills into practice, Norwegians are typically more than obliging. 

Their willingness to speak English can be best summarised with the frequency in which those learning Norwegian find a local switching to English when they detect an accent. 

Additionally, many international firms are based in Norway, particularly Oslo, and have English as the day-to-day working language. 

Tourists can get by on English just fine pretty much everywhere in Norway, including in bars, restaurants and shops. 



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