Photo/IllutrationJapanese high school students talk to college students from abroad in English. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

English proficiency in Japan has been rated "low" for the fourth straight year, according to an index announced this month by a global education organization, and it may be partly due to the stagnant economy.

Japan ranked 53rd out of 100 countries and regions whose native language is not English on the "English Proficiency Index" compiled by Switzerland-based EF Education First.

Japan's ranking is four spots lower than last year, putting it behind China at 40th and South Korea at 37th, according to the organization, which offers language training around the globe.

"Low" is the second lowest of five groupings based on rank.

The Netherlands took the top spot, followed by Sweden in second and Norway in third place.

Japan placed 11th among 25 Asian countries and regions.

Reina Endo, a public relations official of the organization, said: "In emerging economies, English speakers tend to be able to earn higher incomes, so people have stronger motivation to learn. The Japanese economy has been stagnating, and as a result, the English proficiency of Japanese people has not improved over the past 10 years."

The education company, which conducts the test for free online, has announced the rankings since 2011.

A total of 2.3 million people took the test this year, up 77 percent compared to last year, with tens of thousands of Japanese participating.

Japan ranked 14th among 44 countries and regions in 2011, but its ranking has dropped year after year as more countries participate.

English proficiency ranking

(Based on EF Education First data)

1 The Netherlands

2 Sweden

3 Norway

4 Denmark

5 Singapore


37 South Korea

38 Taiwan


40 China


52 Vietnam

53 Japan

54 Pakistan


98 Saudi Arabia

99 Kyrgyzstan

100 Libya