Worldwide Language Index: The US offers the worst environment to learn a foreign language

Report this content

Study analyses 30 western countries to uncover those that offer the best environment for language learning

  • The USA ranks 30th - last place in the index - for language learning, despite having the highest number of spoken languages 

  • Luxembourg ranks first in the index as the best country for language learning, with 100% of children learning a foreign language in primary school

  • The UK ranks 25th out of 30, with only 10% of children learning a foreign language in primary school

Barcelona, March 1, 2021 - Preply, the digital learning platform, has launched the Worldwide Language Index which analyses 30 countries according to 18 factors that indicate a supportive language learning environment. The factors included were split across the following seven categories: the number of official languages; the degree of multilingualism; language learning at school; level of command of best known foreign language; access to language learning through technology; subtitles, and voiceover, and language diversity. The results from each category were weighted equally and each country was given an overall ranking from 1 to 30 based on their scores.

The USA ranks last in the index for the number of people that speak a foreign language, behind Canada in 29th place and the U.K. in 28th place. Citizens of all three countries also rank poorly for their level of proficiency in a second language, as well as the percentage of children taught a second language in primary school. With English as the international language of business, it’s easy for citizens of english-speaking countries to overlook the multiple benefits of learning a second language. The USA, the U.K. and Canada all rank high in the index for access to the technology needed to learn a new language, indicating that shift to multilingualism is both possible and affordable.

“Learning a second language is a skill that requires time, dedication, and effort.  Citizens born into countries with foreign language learning part of the national framework have a tremendous advantage. This study aims to reveal which countries rank best in Europe and beyond in offering their citizens the best chance at improving their foreign language portfolio and enhancing their personal and career development prospects”  says Kirill Bigai, CEO of Preply.

The Top 10 Countries with the Best Language Learning Environment: This list is an extraction of a greater study. A complete overview of all data, methodology and sources can be found under

Rank Country Foreign LanguageLearning
Language Learning at school
Access to Language Learning through Technology Subtitles, dubbing and voice-over Final Score
1 Luxembourg 62.8 100.0 83.8 25.0 100.0
2 Sweden 90.6 94.0 81.9 100.0 76.1
3 Cyprus 100.0 100.0 37.1 100.0 73.3
4 Malta 75.2 99.8 40.2 25.0 65.7
5 Denmark 75.8 86.6 93.8 100.0 63.7
6 Netherlands 68.1 44.1 100.0 100.0 60.8
7 Finland 60.5 74.0 60.5 100.0 60.2
8 Slovenia 59.5 79.4 37.3 100.0 55.6
9 Spain 50.9 99.7 63.3 25.0 48.1
10 Estonia 69.5 72.2 42.5 100.0 45.9

Research reveals that subtitles are one of the most effective ways to enhance foreign language retention by providing a triple connecting between sound, language and text (

Talavan, 2006). Unlike dubbing and voiceover, subtitles necessitate engagement on the part of the viewer. Subtitles also improve our phonetic understanding – this enhances our ability to identify different accents (Max Planck Institute, 2009). This explains why a handful of the countries in the study, such as the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia, rank high overall despite comparatively few children learning a foreign language at primary school.

Further insights:

- Almost every country in the top 10 uses subtitles, with the exception of Luxembourg, Malta, and Spain.
- Cyrus ranks highest for foreign language learning, followed by Sweden and Denmark.
- The Netherlands ranks sixth, with the low percentage of children learning a foreign language in primary school offset by the use of subtitles.
- Luxembourgians have the highest command of a second language, followed by Swedes.
- Spain ranks in ninth place despite almost all children learning a foreign language at school.
- The Netherlands ranks highest in the top 10 for access to technology, followed by Denmark.
- Cyprus ranks lowest in the top 10 for access to technology, followed by Slovenia.

ABCD Agency
Janie Steinke

About Preply: Preply is an online learning platform, connecting a global network of tens of thousands of active learners and 15,000 verified tutors to study and teach over 50 languages. With tutor and student matches being made through a machine-learning algorithm, recommended tutors create customised lesson plans to suit the learner’s budget, schedule and current knowledge. To date, students from 150 countries have taken over two million classes from teachers based in 110 countries. Preply was founded in 2013 by Ukrainian based cofounders Kirill Bigai, Dmytro Voloshyn, and Serge Lukyanov. The company has since raised over USD $15 million and has 145 employees of 25 nationalities working across offices in Kyiv and Barcelona.