Students practice English at a primary school in Dexing, Jiangxi province. (Zhao Zhongwei)
Chinese people's English proficiency has improved in the past year relative to other non-English speaking countries, a report released on Tuesday said.
China's ranking rose seven places to 40th among 100 countries and regions, according to Swedish education company EF Education First's 2019 English Proficiency Index.
It has produced the report for nine consecutive years.
China scored 53.44 out of 100 points this year, 1.5 points more than last year.
This year's report was based on the EF Standard English Test results of more than 2.3 million adults who were tested on their ability to understand written and spoken English.
The number of participants worldwide was up 77 percent this year, their median age was 23, and 59 percent were women, the report said.
Adults from Netherlands were the best English speakers from non-English-speaking countries with 70.27, followed by those from Sweden (68.74), Norway (67.93) and Denmark (67.87), it said. The country with the lowest score is Libya at 40.87.
In a separate ranking for English proficiency in Chinese regions, Shanghai ranked first for the sixth consecutive year with 56.64, followed by Beijing, Hong Kong and Tianjin. The Ningxia Hui autonomous region has the lowest English proficiency with 46.38.
Jesper Knutell, executive vice-president and general manager of corporate solutions, EF China, said the main reasons for China's increase in rankings are its people's strong desire to see and understand the world, their long-term commitment to English education and increased investment in the language.
He said 12 regions in China ranked in the moderate level of proficiency this year, an improvement from only two regions in 2012, he said.
Ning Qiang, professor at Capital Normal University in Beijing, said: "I am a product of good English proficiency and an example of how important good English proficiency is to people's learning opportunities and career advancement.
"English has changed my life. Because I learned English, I had the opportunity to study at Harvard University, where I received a PhD. I also taught for 10 years at Yale University and the University of Michigan."
Last year, 300 million people in China were learning English, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which noted that there were 50,000 English-language teaching establishments in the country and the market was worth as much as 500 billion yuan ($71.4 billion).
To improve English proficiency, people should study English every day in sessions of 20 to 40 minutes rather than for hours at a time, Knutell said.
They should memorize vocabulary relevant to their job or field of study and begin using it immediately, he said, adding that watching TV, reading and listening to the radio in English also can help.